(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The wife of his youth, and other stories of the color line;"

mmmmmmmmmm 









S. 6. and E. L. ELBERT 



._-.,.. ■ A' « 










£ 



|J l^!?^Xtlt& fegr ELLA SHIfE JHaJEK 
1^9 KAffHARIEB D. COMAE 



A88 





•'THIS IS THE WOMAN, AND I AM THE MAN" (page 24) 



THE WIFE OF HIS 
YOUTH 

AND OTHER STORIES OF 
THE COLOR LINE 

BY 

CHARLES W. CHESNUTT 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CLYDE 0. DE LAND 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY 

Cbe ftitiet?i&e $re$£, Cambribce 

1899 



COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY CHARLES W. CHESNUTT 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

The Wife of his Youth 1 

Her Virginia Mammy 25 

The Sheriff's Children 60 

A Matter of Principle 94 

Cicely's Dream 132 

The Passing of Grandison .... 168 

Uncle Wellington's Wives 203 

The Bouquet 269 

The Web of Circumstance 291 



LIST OF ILLUSTKATIONS 



PAGE 



" This is the woman, and I am the man " (page 

24) Frontispiece 

" We 'll bu's' the do' open "-.... 76 

Perhaps the house had been robbed . . . 258 
" For white people only. Others please keep 

out" 288 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 



Mr. Ryder was going to give a ball. 
There were several reasons why this was an 
opportune time for such an event. 

Mr. Ryder might aptly be called the dean 
of the Blue Veins. The original Blue Veins 
were a little society of colored persons organ- 
ized in a certain Northern city shortly after 
the war. Its purpose was to establish and 
maintain correct social standards among a 
people whose social condition presented almost 
unlimited room for improvement. By acci- 
dent, combined perhaps with some natural 
affinity, the society consisted of individuals 
who were, generally speaking, more white than 
black. Some envious outsider made the sug- 
gestion that no one was eligible for member- 
ship who was not white enough to show blue 
veins. The suggestion was readily adopted 
by those who were not of the favored few, 



Z THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

and since that time the society, though pos- 
sessing a longer and more pretentious name, 
had been known far and wide as the " Blue 
Vein Society/' and its members as the " Blue 
Veins." 

The Blue Veins did not allow that any such 
requirement existed for admission to their cir- 
cle, but, on the contrary, declared that char- 
acter and culture were the only things con- 
sidered ; and that if most of their members 
were light-colored, it was because such persons, 
as a rule, had had better opportunities to 
qualify themselves for membership. Opinions 
differed, too, as to the usefulness of the so- 
ciety. There were those who had been known 
to assail it violently as a glaring example of 
the very prejudice from which the colored race 
had suffered most ; and later, when such 
critics had succeeded in getting on the inside, 
they had been heard to maintain with zeal 
and earnestness that the society was a life- 
boat, an anchor, a bulwark and a shield, — a 
pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, to 
guide their people through the social wilder- 
ness. Another alleged prerequisite for Blue 
Vein membership was that of free birth ; and 
while there was really no such requirement, it 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 3 

is doubtless true that very few o£ the members 
would have been unable to meet it if there 
had been. If there were one or two of the 
older members who had come up from the 
South and from slavery , their history presented 
enough romantic circumstances to rob their 
servile origin of its grosser aspects. 

While there were no such tests of eligibil- 
ity, it is true that the Blue Veins had their 
notions on these subjects, and that not all of 
them were equally liberal in regard to the 
things they collectively disclaimed. Mr. 
Ryder was one of the most conservative. 
Though he had not been among the founders 
of the society, but had come in some years 
later, his genius for social leadership was such 
that he had speedily become its recognized 
adviser and head, the custodian of its stand- 
ards, and the preserver of its traditions. He 
shaped its social policy, was active in provid- 
ing for its entertainment, and when the inter- 
est fell off, as it sometimes did, he fanned the 
embers until they burst again into a cheerful 
flame. 

There were still other reasons for his popu- 
larity. While he was not as white as some 
of the Blue Veins, his appearance was such 



4 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

as to confer distinction upon them. His fea- 
tures were of a refined type, his hair was 
almost straight ; he was always neatly dressed ; 
his manners were irreproachable, and his 
morals above suspicion. He had come to 
Groveland a young man, and obtaining em- 
ployment in the office of a railroad company 
as messenger had in time worked himself up 
to the position of stationery clerk, having 
charge of the distribution of the office supplies 
for the whole company. Although the lack 
of early training had hindered the orderly 
development of a naturally fine mind, it had 
not prevented him from doing a great deal of 
reading or from forming decidedly literary 
tastes. Poetry was his passion. He could 
repeat whole pages of the great English 
poets ; and if his pronunciation was some- 
times faulty, his eye, his voice, his gestures, 
would respond to the changing sentiment with 
a precision that revealed a poetic soul and 
disarmed criticism. He was economical, and 
had saved money ; he owned and occupied a 
very comfortable house on a respectable street. 
His residence was handsomely furnished, con- 
taining among other things a good library, 
especially rich in poetry, a piano, and some 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

choice engravings. He generally shared his 
house with some young couple, who looked 
after his wants and were company for him ; 
for Mr. Ryder was a single man. In the 
early days of his connection with the Blue 
Veins he had been regarded as quite a catch, 
and young ladies and their mothers had 
manoeuvred with much ingenuity to capture 
him. Not, however, until Mrs. Molly Dixon 
visited Groveland had any woman ever made 
him wish to change his condition to that of a 
married man. - 

Mrs. Dixon had come to Groveland from 
Washington in the spring, and before the 
summer was over she had won Mr. Ryder's 
heart. She possessed many attractive quali- 
ties. She was much younger than he ; in 
fact, he was old enough to have been her fa- 
ther, though no one knew exactly how old he 
was. She was whiter than he, and better ed- 
ucated. She had moved in the best colored 
society of the country, at Washington, and 
had taught in the schools of that city. Such 
a superior person had been eagerly welcomed 
to the Blue Vein Society, and had taken a 
leading part in its activities. Mr. Ryder had 
at first been attracted by her charms of per- 



6 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

son, for she was very good looking and not 
over twenty-five ; then by her refined man- 
ners and the vivacity of her wit. Her hus- 
band had been a government clerk, and at 
his death had left a considerable life insur- 
ance. She was visiting friends in Groveland, 
and, finding the town and the people to her 
liking, had prolonged her stay indefinitely. 
She had not seemed displeased at Mr. Ryder's 
attentions, but on the contrary had given 
him every proper encouragement ; indeed, a 
younger and less cautious man would long 
since have spoken. But he had made up his 
mind, and had only to determine the time 
when he would ask her to be his wife. He 
decided to give a ball in her honor, and at 
some time during the evening of the ball to 
offer her his heart and hand. He had no 
special fears about the outcome, but, with a 
little touch of romance, he wanted the sur- 
roundings to be in harmony with his own 
feelings when he should have received the 
answer he expected. 

Mr. Ryder resolved that this ball should 
mark an epoch in the social history of Grove- 
land. He knew, of course, — no one could 
know better, — the entertainments that had 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 7 

taken place in past years, and what must be 
done to surpass them. His ball must be 
worthy of the lady in whose honor it was to 
be given, and must, by the quality of its 
guests, set an example for the future. He 
had observed of late a growing liberality, 
almost a laxity, in social matters, even among 
members of his own set, and had several times 
been forced to meet in a social way persons 
whose complexions and callings in life were 
hardly up to the standard which he considered 
proper for the society to maintain. He had a 
theory of his own. 

" I have no race prejudice," he would say, 
" but we people of mixed blood are ground 
between the upper and the nether millstone. 
Our fate lies between absorption by the white 
race and extinction in the black. The one 
does n't want us yet, but may take us in time. 
The other would welcome us, but it would be 
for us a backward step. 6 With malice to- 
wards none, with charity for all/ we must do 
the best we can for ourselves and those who 
are to follow us. Self-preservation is the first 
law of nature." 

His ball would serve by its exclusiveness to 
counteract leveling tendencies, and his mar- 



8 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

riage with Mrs. Dixon would help to further 
the upward process of absorption he had been 
wishing and waiting for. 

n 

The ball was to take place on Friday night. 
The house had been put in order, the carpets 
covered with canvas, the halls and stairs de- 
corated with palms and potted plants ; and in 
the afternoon Mr. Ryder sat on his front 
porch, which the shade of a vine running up 
over a wire netting made a cool and pleasant 
lounging place. He expected to respond to 
the toast " The Ladies M at the supper, and 
from a volume of Tennyson — his favorite 
poet — was fortifying himself with apt quo* 
tations. The volume was open at " A Dream 
of Fair Women." His eyes fell on these lines, 
and he read them aloud to judge better of 
their effect : — 

" At length I saw a lady within call, 

Stiller than chisell'd marble, standing there ; 
A daughter of the gods, divinely tall, 
And most divinely fair." 

He marked the verse, and turning the page 
read the stanza beginning, — 

" sweet pale Margaret, 
O rare pale Margaret." 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 9 

He weighed the passage a moment, and de- 
cided that it would not do. Mrs. Dixon was 
the palest lady he expected at the ball, and 
she was of a rather ruddy complexion, and of 
lively disposition and buxom build. So he 
ran over the leaves until his eye rested on 
the description of Queen Guinevere : — 

" She seem'd a part of joyous Spring : 
A gown of grass-green silk she wore, 
Buckled with golden clasps before ; 
A light-green tuft of plumes she bore 
Closed in a golden ring. 
• . • • . • 

" She look'd so lovely, as she sway'd 
The rein with dainty finger-tips, 
A man had given all other bliss, 
And all his worldly worth for this, 
To waste his whole heart in one kiss 
Upon her perfect lips." 

As Mr. Ryder murmured these words au- 
dibly, with an appreciative thrill, he heard 
the latch of his gate click, and a light foot- 
fall sounding on the steps. He turned his 
head, and saw a woman standing before his 
door. 

She was a little woman, not five feet tall, 
and proportioned to her height. Although 
she stood erect, and looked around her with 
very bright and restless eyes, she seemed 



10 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

quite old ; for her face was crossed and re- 
crossed with a hundred wrinkles, and around 
the edges of her bonnet could be seen pro- 
truding here and there a tuft of short gray 
wool. She wore a blue calico gown of 
ancient cut, a little red shawl fastened around 
her shoulders with an old-fashioned brass 
brooch, and a large bonnet profusely orna- 
mented with faded red and yellow artificial 
flowers. And she was very black, — so black 
that her toothless gums, revealed when she 
opened her mouth to speak, were not red, but 
blue. She looked like a bit of the old plan- 
tation life, summoned up from the past by 
the wave of a magician's wand, as the poet's 
fancy had called into being the gracious 
shapes of which Mr. Ryder had just been 
reading. 

He rose from his chair and came over to 
where she stood. 

" Good-afternoon, madam," he said. 

" Good-evenin', suh," she answered, duck- 
ing suddenly with a quaint curtsy. Her 
voice was shrill and piping, but softened 
somewhat by age. " Is dis yere whar Mistuh 
Ryduh lib, suh? " she asked, looking around 
her doubtfully, and glancing into the open 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 11 

windows, through which some of the prepara- 
tions for the evening were visible. 

" Yes," he replied, with an air of kindly- 
patronage, unconsciously flattered by her man- 
ner, " I am Mr. Ryder. Did you want to see 
me c 

" Yas, suh, ef I ain't 'sturbin' of you too 
much." 

" Not at all. Have a seat over here behind 
the vine, where it is cool. What can I do 
for you ? " 

" 'Scuse me, suh," she continued, when she 
had sat down on the edge of a chair, " 'scuse 
me, suh, I 's lookin' for my husban'. I heerd 
you wuz a big man an' had libbed heah a 
long time, an' I 'lowed you would n't min' ef 
I'd come roun' an' ax you ef you'd ever 
heerd of a merlatter man by de name er Sam 
Taylor 'quirin' roun' in de chu'ches ermongs' 
de people f er his wife 'Liza Jane ? ' : 

Mr. Ryder seemed to think for a moment. 

" There used to be many such cases right 
after the war," he said, " but it has been 
so long that I have forgotten them. There 
are very few now. But tell me your story, 
and it may refresh my memory." 

She sat back farther in her chair so as to 



12 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

be more comfortable, and folded her withered 
hands in her lap. 

" My name 's 'Liza, " she began, " 'Liza 
Jane. Wen I wuz young I us'ter b'long ter 
Marse Bob Smif, down in ole Missoura. I 
wuz bawn down dere. Wen I wuz a gal 
I wuz married ter a man named Jim. But 
Jim died, an' after dat I married a merlatter 
man named Sam Taylor. Sam wuz free- 
bawn, but his mammy and daddy died, 
an' de w'ite folks 'prenticed him ter my 
marster fer ter work fer 'im 'tel he wuz 
growed up. Sam worked in de fieF, an' I 
wuz de cook. One day Ma'y Ann, ole miss's 
maid, came rushin' out ter de kitchen, an' 
says she, i 'Liza Jane, ole marse gwine sell 
yo' Sam down de ribber.' 

" ' Go way f 'm yere,' says I ; i my hus- 
ban' 's free ! ' 

"'Don' make no difFence. I heerd ole 
marse tell ole miss he wuz gwine take yo' 
Sam 'way wid 'im ter-morrow, fer he needed 
money, an' he knowed whar he could git a 
t'ousan' dollars fer Sam an' no questions 
axed.' 

" Wen Sam come home f 'm de fiel' dat 
night, I tole him 'bout ole marse gwine 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 13 

steal 'im, an' Sam run erway. His time wuz 
mos' up, an' lie swo' dat w'en he wuz twenty- 
one he would come back an' he'p me run 
erway, er else save up de money ter buy my 
freedom. An' I know he 'd 'a' done it, f er 
he thought a heap er me, Sam did. But w'en 
he come back he did n' fin' me, f er I wuz n' 
dere. Ole marse had heerd dat I warned 
Sam, so he had me whip' an' sol' down de 
ribber. 

" Den de wah broke out, an' w'en it wuz 
ober de cullud folks wuz scattered. I went 
back ter de ole home ; but Sam wuz n' dere, 
an' I could n' l'arn nuffin' 'bout 'im. But I 
knowed he 'd be'n dere to look fer me an' 
had n' f oun' me, an' had gone erway ter hunt 
fer me. 

" I 's be'n lookin' fer 'im eber sence," she 
added simply, as though twenty-five years 
were but a couple of weeks, " an' I knows 
he 's be'n lookin' fer me. Fer he sot a heap 
er sto' by me, Sam did, an' I know he 's be'n 
huntin' fer me all dese years, — 'less'n he 's 
be'n sick er sump'n, so he could n' work, er 
out'n his head, so he could n' 'member his 
promise. I went back down de ribber, fer I 
'lowed he 'd gone down dere lookin' fer me. 



14 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

I's be'n ter Noo Orleens, an' Atlanty, an' 
Charleston, an' Richmon' ; an' w'en I 'd be'n 
all ober de Souf I come ter de Norf . Fer I 
knows I '11 fin' 'im some er dese days," she 
added softly, " er he '11 fin' me, an' den we '11 
bofe be as happy in freedom as we wuz in de 
ole days befo' de wah." A smile stole over 
her withered countenance as she paused a mo- 
ment, and her bright eyes softened into a far- 
away look. 

This was the substance of the old woman's 
story. She had wandered a little here and 
there. Mr. Ryder was looking at her curi- 
ously when she finished. 

" How have you lived all these years ? " he 
asked. 

u Cookin', suh. I's a good cook. Does 
you know anybody w'at needs a good cook, 
suh ? I 's stoppin' wid a cullud f am'ly roun' 
de corner yonder 'tel I kin git a place." 

" Do you really expect to find your hus- 
band ? He may be dead long ago." 

She shook her head emphatically. " Oh 
no, he ain' dead. De signs an' de tokens tells 
me. I dremp three nights runnin' on'y dis las' 
week dat I foun' him." 

"He may have married another woman. 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 15 

Your slave marriage would not have pre- 
vented him, for you never lived with him 
after the war, and without that your marriage 
does n't count." 

" Would n' make no diff'ence wid Sam. 
He would n' marry no yuther 'ooman 'tel he 
foun' out 'bout me. I knows it," she added. 
" Sump'n 's be'n tellin' me all dese years dat 
I 's gwine fin' Sam 'fo' I dies." 

66 Perhaps he 's outgrown you, and climbed 
up in the world where he would n't care to 
have you find him." 

" No, indeed, suh," she replied, " Sam am' 
dat kin' er man. He wuz good ter me, Sam 
wuz, but he wuz n' much good ter nobody 
e'se, fer he wuz one er de triflin'es' han's on 
de plantation. I 'spec's ter haf ter suppo't 
'im w'en I fin' 'im, fer he nebber would work 
'less'n he had ter. But den he wuz free, an' 
he did n' git no pay fer his work, an' I don' 
blame 'im much. Mebbe he 's done better 
sence he run erway, but I ain' 'spectin' much." 

66 You may have passed him on the street 
a hundred times during the twenty-five years, 
and not have known him ; time works great 
changes." 

She smiled incredulously. " I 'd know 'im 



16 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

'mongs' a hund'ed men. Fer dey wuz n' no 
yuther merlatter man like my man Sam, an' 
I could n' be mistook. I 's toted his picture 
roun' wid me twenty-five years." 

" May I see it ? " asked Mr. Eyder. " It 
might help me to remember whether I have 
seen the original." 

As she drew a small parcel from her bosom 
he saw that it was fastened to a string that 
went around her neck. Removing several 
wrappers, she brought to light an old- 
fashioned daguerreotype in a black case. 
He looked long and intently at the portrait. 
It was faded with time, but the features were 
still distinct, and it was easy to see what man- 
ner of man it had represented. 

He closed the case, and with a slow move- 
ment handed it back to her. 

" I don't know of any man in town who 
goes by that name," he said, " nor have I 
heard of any one making such inquiries. But 
if you will leave me your address, I will give 
the matter some attention, and if I find out 
anything I will let you know." 

She gave him the number of a house in the 
neighborhood, and went away, after thanking 
him warmly. 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 17 

He wrote the address on the fly-leaf of 
the volume of Tennyson, and, when she had 
gone, rose to his feet and stood looking after 
her curiously. As she walked down the street 
with mincing step, he saw several persons 
whom she passed turn and look back at her 
with a smile of kindly amusement. When 
she had turned the corner, he went upstairs 
to his bedroom, and stood for a long time be- 
fore the mirror of his dressing-case, gazing 
thoughtfully at the reflection of his own face. 



Ill 

At eight o'clock the ballroom was a blaze 
of light and the guests had begun to as- 
semble; for there was a literary programme 
and some routine business of the society to 
be gone through with before the dancing. 
A black servant in evening dress waited at 
the door and directed the guests to the dress- 
ing-rooms. 

The occasion was long memorable among 
the colored people of the city ; not alone for 
the dress and display, but for the high aver- 
age of intelligence and culture that distin- 
guished the gathering as a whole. There 



18 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

were a number of school-teachers, several 
young doctors, three or four lawyers, some 
professional singers, an editor, a lieutenant 
in the United States army spending his fur- 
lough in the city, and others in various polite 
callings ; these were colored, though most of 
them would not have attracted even a casual 
glance because of any marked difference from 
white people. Most of the ladies were in 
evening costume, and dress coats and dan- 
cing pumps were the rule among the men. A 
band of string music, stationed in an alcove 
behind a row of palms, played popular airs 
while the guests were gathering. 

The dancing began at half past nine. At 
eleven o'clock supper was served. Mr. Ryder 
had left the ballroom some little time before 
the intermission, but reappeared at the supper- 
table. The spread was worthy of the occa- 
sion, and the guests did full justice to it. 
When the coffee had been served, the toast- 
master, Mr. Solomon Sadler, rapped for order. 
He made a brief introductory speech, compli- 
menting host and guests, and then presented 
in their order the toasts of the evening. They 
were responded to with a very fair display of 
after-dinner wit. 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 19 

" The last toast," said the toast-master, 
when he reached the end of the list, " is one 
which must appeal to us all. There is no one 
of us of the sterner sex who is not at some 
time dependent upon woman, — in infancy 
for protection, in manhood for companion- 
ship, in old age for care and comforting. Our 
good host has been trying to live alone, but 
the fair faces I see around me to-night prove 
that he too is largely dependent upon the 
gentler sex for most that makes life worth 
living, — the society and love of friends, — 
and rumor is at fault if he does not soon yield 
entire subjection to one of them. Mr. Ryder 
will now respond to the toast, — The Ladies." 

There was a pensive look in Mr. Ryder's 
eyes as he took the floor and adjusted his eye- 
glasses. He began by speaking of woman as 
the gift of Heaven to man, and after some 
general observations on the relations of the 
sexes he said: " But perhaps the quality which 
most distinguishes woman is her fidelity and 
devotion to those she loves. History is full 
of examples, but has recorded none more 
striking than one which only to-day came 
under my notice." 

He then related, simply but effectively, the 



20 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

story told by his visitor of the afternoon. He 
gave it in the same soft dialect, which came 
readily to his lips, while the company listened 
attentively and sympathetically. For the 
story had awakened a responsive thrill in 
many hearts. There were some present who 
had seen, and others who had heard their 
fathers and grandfathers tell, the wrongs and 
sufferings of this past generation, and all of 
them still felt, in their darker moments, the 
shadow hanging over them. Mr. Ryder went 
on : — 

" Such devotion and confidence are rare 
even among women. There are many who 
would have searched a year, some who would 
have waited five years, a few who might 
have hoped ten years ; but for twenty-five 
years this woman has retained her affection 
for and her faith in a man she has not seen 
or heard of in all that time. 

" She came to me to-day in the hope that I 
might be able to help her find this long-lost 
husband. And when she was gone I gave my 
fancy rein, and imagined a case I will put to 
you. 

"Suppose that this husband, soon after his 
escape, had learned that his wife had been 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 21 

sold away, and that such inquiries as he could 
make brought no information of her where- 
abouts. Suppose that he was young, and she 
much older than he ; that he was light, and 
she was black ; that their marriage was a 
slave marriage, and legally binding only if 
they chose to make it so after the war. Sup- 
pose, too, that he made his way to the North, 
as some of us have done, and there, where he 
had larger opportunities, had improved them, 
and had in the course of all these years grown 
to be as different from the ignorant boy who 
ran away from fear of slavery as the day is 
from the night. Suppose, even, that he had 
qualified himself, by industry, by thrift, and 
by study, to win the friendship and be con- 
sidered worthy the society of such people as 
these I see around me to-night, gracing my 
board and filling my heart with gladness; 
for I am old enough to remember the day 
when such a gathering would not have been 
possible in this land. Suppose, too, that, as 
the years went by, this man's memory of the 
past grew more and more indistinct, until at 
last it was rarely, except in his dreams, that 
any image of this bygone period rose before 
his mind. And then suppose that accident 



22 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

should bring to his knowledge the fact that 
the wife of his youth, the wife he had left 
behind him, — not one who had walked by 
his side and kept pace with him in his upward 
struggle, but one upon whom advancing 
years and a laborious life had set their mark, 
— was alive and seeking him, but that he 
was absolutely safe from recognition or dis- 
covery, unless he chose to reveal himself. 
My friends, what would the man do ? I will 
presume that he was one who loved honor, 
and tried to deal justly with all men. I will 
even carry the case further, and suppose that 
perhaps he had set his heart upon another, 
whom he had hoped to call his own. What 
would he do, or rather what ought he to do, 
in such a crisis of a lifetime ? 

" It seemed to me that he might hesitate, 
and I imagined that I was an old friend, a 
near friend, and that he had come to me for 
advice ; and I argued the case with him. I 
tried to discuss it impartially. After we had 
looked upon the matter from every point of 
view, I said to him, in words that we all 
know : — 

1 This above all: to thiue own self be true, 
And it must follow, as the night the day, 
Thou canst not then be false to any man.' 



THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 23 

Then, finally, I put the question to him, * Shall 
you acknowledge her ? ' 

" And now, ladies and gentlemen, friends 
and companions, I ask you, what should he 
have done ? " 

There was something in Mr. Ryder's voice 
that stirred the hearts of those who sat around 
him. It suggested more than mere sympathy 
with an imaginary situation ; it seemed rather 
in the nature of a personal appeal. It was 
observed, too, that his look rested more espe- 
cially upon Mrs. Dixon, with a mingled ex- 
pression of renunciation and inquiry. 

She had listened, with parted lips and 
streaming eyes. She was the first to speak : 
" He should have acknowledged her." 

"Yes," they all echoed, "he should have 
acknowledged her." 

" My friends and companions," responded 
Mr. Ryder, " I thank you, one and all. It 
is the answer I expected, for I knew your 
hearts." 

He turned and walked toward the closed 
door of an adjoining room, while every eye 
followed him in wondering curiosity. He 
came back in a moment, leading by the hand 
his visitor of the afternoon, who stood startled 



24 THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH 

and trembling at the sudden plunge into this 
scene of brilliant gayety. She was neatly 
dressed in gray, and wore the white cap of 
an elderly woman. 

" Ladies and gentlemen/' he said, " this is 
the woman, and I am the man, whose story I 
have told you. Permit me to introduce to 
you the wife of my youth." 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 



The pianist had struck up a lively two-step, 
and soon the floor was covered with couples, 
each turning on its own axis, and all revolving 
around a common centre, in obedience per- 
haps to the same law of motion that governs 
the planetary systems. The dancing-hall was 
a long room, with a waxed floor that glistened 
with the reflection of the lights from the 
chandeliers. The walls were hung in paper 
of blue and white, above a varnished hard 
wood wainscoting ; the monotony of surface 
being broken by numerous windows draped 
with curtains of dotted muslin, and by occa- 
sional engravings and colored pictures repre- 
senting the dances of various nations, judi- 
ciously selected. The rows of chairs along 
the two sides of the room were left unoc- 
cupied by the time the music was well under 
way, for the pianist, a tall colored woman 
with long fingers and a muscular wrist, played 



26 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

with a verve and a swing that set the feet of 
the listeners involuntarily in motion. 

The dance was sure to occupy the class for 
a quarter of an hour at least, and the little 
dancing-mistress took the opportunity to slip 
away to her own sitting-room, which was on 
the same floor of the block, for a few minutes 
of rest. Her day had been a hard one. 
There had been a matinee at" two o'clock, a 
children's class at four, and at eight o'clock 
the class now on the floor had assembled. 

When she reached the sitting-room she 
gave a start of pleasure. A young man rose 
at her entrance, and advanced with both 
hands extended — a tall, broad-shouldered, 
fair-haired young man, with a frank and 
kindly countenance, now lit up with the ani- 
mation of pleasure. He seemed about twenty- 
six or twenty-seven years old. His face was 
of the type one instinctively associates with 
intellect and character, and it gave the im- 
pression, besides, of that intangible some- 
thing which we call race. He was neatly 
and carefully dressed, though his clothing was 
not without indications that he found it neces- 
sary or expedient to practice economy. 

" Good-evening, Clara," he said, taking her 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 27 

hands in his ; " I 've been waiting for you five 
minutes. I supposed you would be in, but if 
you had been a moment later I was going to 
the hall to look you up. You seem tired to- 
night/' he added, drawing her nearer to him 
and scanning her features at short range. 
" This work is too hard ; you are not fitted 
for it. When are you going to give it up? " 

" The season is almost over," she answered, 
" and then I shall stop for the summer." 

He drew her closer still and kissed her lov- 
ingly. " Tell me, Clara," he said, looking 
down into her face, — he was at least a foot 
taller than she, — " when I am to have my 



answer." 



" Will you take the answer you can get to- 
night?" she asked with a wan smile. 

"I will take but one answer, Clara. But 
do not make me wait too long for that. Why, 
just think of it ! I have known you for six 
months." 

" That is an extremely long time," said 
Clara, as they sat down side by side. 

" It has been an age," he rejoined. " For 
a fortnight of it, too, which seems longer 
than all the rest, I have been waiting for my 
answer. I am turning gray under the sus- 



28 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

pense. Seriously, Clara dear, what shall it be? 
or rather, when shall it be ? for to the other 
question there is but one answer possible." 

He looked into her eyes, which slowly filled 
with tears. She repulsed him gently as he 
bent over to kiss them away. 

" You know I love you, John, and why I 
do not say what you wish. You must give 
me a little more time to make up my mind be- 
fore I can consent to burden you with a name- 
less wife, one who does not know who her 
mother was " — 

" She was a good woman, and beautiful, if 
you are at all like her." 

" Or her father " — 

" He was a gentleman and a scholar, if you 
inherited from him your mind or your man- 
ners." 

" It is good of you to say that, and I try to 
believe it. But it is a serious matter; it is 
a dreadful thing to have no name." 

" You are known by a worthy one, which 
was freely given you, and is legally yours." 

" I know — and I am grateful for it. After 
all, though, it is not my real name ; and since 
I have learned that it was not, it seems like a 
garment — something external, accessory, and 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 29 

not a part of myself. It does not mean what 
one's own name would signify." 

" Take mine, Clara, and make it yours ; I 
lay it at your feet. Some honored men have 
borne it." 

" Ah yes, and that is what makes my posi- 
tion the harder. Your great-grandfather was 
governor of Connecticut." 

" I have heard my mother say so." 

" And one of your ancestors came over in 
the Mayflower." 

" In some capacity — I have never been 
quite clear whether as ship's cook or before 
the mast." 

" Now you are insincere, John ; but you 
cannot deceive me. You never spoke in that 
way about your ancestors until you learned 
that I had none. I know you are proud of 
them, and that the memory of the governor 
and the judge and the Harvard professor and 
the Mayflower pilgrim makes you strive to 
excel, in order to prove yourself worthy of 
them." 

" It did until I met you, Clara. Now the 
one inspiration of my life is the hope to make 
you mine." 

" And your profession ? " 



30 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

" It will furnish me the means to take you 
out of this ; you are not fit for toil." 

" And your book — your treatise that is to 
make you famous ? ,: 

" I have worked twice as hard on it and 
accomplished twice as much since I have 
hoped that you might share my success." 

" Oh ! if I but knew the truth ! " she 
sighed, " or could find it out ! I realize that 
I am absurd, that I ought to be happy. I 
love my parents — my foster-parents — dearly. 
I owe them everything. Mother — poor, dear 
mother ! — could not have loved me better 
or cared for me more faithfully had I been 
her own child. Yet — I am ashamed to say 
it — I always felt that I was not like them, 
that there was a subtle difference between us. 
They were contented in prosperity, resigned 
in misfortune ; I was ever restless, and filled 
with vague ambitions. They were good, but 
dull. They loved me, but they never said so. 
I feel that there is warmer, richer blood cours- 
ing in my veins than the placid stream that 
crept through theirs." 

" There will never be any such people to 
me as they were," said her lover, "for they 
took you and brought you up for me." 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 31 

" Sometimes/' she went on dreamily, " I 
feel sure that I am of good family, and the 
blood of my ancestors seems to call to me in 
clear and certain tones. Then again when 
my mood changes, I am all at sea — I feel 
that even if I had but simply to turn my 
hand to learn who I am and whence I came, 
I should shrink from taking the step, for fear 
that what I might learn would leave me for- 
ever unhappy." 

" Dearest," he said, taking her in his arms, 
while from the hall and down the corridor 
came the softened strains of music, " put 
aside these unwholesome fancies. Your past 
is shrouded in mystery. Take my name, as 
you have taken my love, and I '11 make your 
future so happy that you won't have time to 
think of the past. What are a lot of musty, 
mouldy old grandfathers, compared with life 
and love and happiness ? It 's hardly good 
form to mention one's ancestors nowadays, 
and what 's the use of them at all if one 
can't boast of them ? " 

" It 's all very well of you to talk that way," 
she rejoined. " But suppose you should 
marry me, and when you become famous and 
rich, and patients flock to your office, and 



32 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

fashionable people to your home, and every 
one wants to know who you are and whence 
you came, you '11 be obliged to bring out the 
governor, and the judge, and the rest of them. 
If you should refrain, in order to forestall 
embarrassing inquiries about my ancestry, I 
should have deprived you of something you 
are entitled to, something which has a real 
social value. And when people found out 
all about you, as they eventually would from 
some source, they would want to know — we 
Americans are a curious people — who your 
wife was, and you could only say " — 

" The best and sweetest woman on earth, 
whom I love unspeakably." 

" You know that is not what I mean. You 
could only say — a Miss Nobody, from No- 
where." 

" A Miss Hohlfelder, from Cincinnati, the 
only child of worthy German parents, who fled 
from their own country in '49 to escape polit- 
ical persecution — an ancestry that one surely 
need not be ashamed of." 

" No ; but the consciousness that it was not 
true would be always with me, poisoning my 
mind, and darkening my life and yours." 

u Your views of life are entirely too tragic, 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 33 

Clara/' the young man argued soothingly. 
" W e are all worms of the dust, and if we 
go back far enough, each of us has had millions 
of ancestors ; peasants and serfs, most of them ; 
thieves, murderers, and vagabonds, many of 
them, no doubt ; and therefore the best of us 
have but little to boast of. Yet we are all 
made after God's own image, and formed by 
his hand, for his ends ; and therefore not to 
be lightly despised, even the humblest of us, 
least of all by ourselves. For the past we can 
claim no credit, for those who made it died 
with it. Our destiny lies in the future." 

" Yes," she sighed, " I know all that. But 
I am not like you. A woman is not like a 
man ; she cannot lose herself in theories and 
generalizations. And there are tests that even 
all your philosophy could not endure. Sup- 
pose you should marry me, and then some 
time, by the merest accident, you should learn 
that my origin was the worst it could be — 
that I not only had no name, but was not 
entitled to one." 

" I cannot believe it," he said, " and from 
what we do know of your history it is hardly 
possible. If I learned it, I should forget it, 
unless, perchance, it should enhance your 



34 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

value in my eyes, by stamping you as a rare 
work of nature, an exception to the law of 
heredity, a triumph of pure beauty and good- 
ness over the grosser limitations of matter. 
I cannot imagine, now that I know you, 
anything that could make me love you less. 
I would marry you just the same — even 
if you were one of your dancing-class to- 
night." 

" I must go back to them," said Clara, as 
the music ceased. 

"My answer," he urged, "give me my 
answer ! " 

" Not to-night, John," she pleaded. " Grant 
me a little longer time to make up my mind 
— for your sake." 

" Not for my sake, Clara, no." 

" Well — for mine." She let him take her 
in his arms and kiss her again. 

" I have a patient yet to see to-night," he 
said as he went out. "If I am not detained 
too long, I may come back this way — if I see 
the lights in the hall still burning. Do not 
wonder if I ask you again for my answer, 
for I shall be unhappy until I get it." 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 35 

II 

A stranger entering the hall with Miss 
Hohlf elder would have seen, at first glance, 
only a company of well-dressed people, with 
nothing to specially distinguish them from 
ordinary humanity in temperate climates. 
After the eye had rested for a moment and 
begun to separate the mass into its compo- 
nent parts, one or two dark faces would 
have arrested its attention ; and with the sug- 
gestion thus offered, a closer inspection would 
have revealed that they were nearly all a 
little less than white. With most of them 
this fact would not have been noticed, while 
they were alone or in company with one an- 
other, though if a fair white person had gone 
among them it would perhaps have been more 
apparent. From the few who were undis- 
tinguishable from pure white, the colors ran 
down the scale by minute gradations to the 
two or three brown faces at the other ex- 
tremity. 

It was Miss Hohlfelder's first colored class. 
She had been somewhat startled when first 
asked to take it. No person of color had ever 
applied to her for lessons ; and while a woman 



36 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

of that race had played the piano for her for 
several months, she had never thought of 
colored people as possible pupils. So when 
she was asked if she would take a class of 
twenty or thirty, she had hesitated, and 
begged for time to consider the application. 
She knew that several of the more fashion- 
able dancing-schools tabooed all pupils, singly 
or in classes, who labored under social disabili- 
ties — and this included the people of at least 
one other race who were vastly farther along 
in the world than the colored people of the 
community where Miss Hohlfelder lived. 
Personally she had no such prejudice, except 
perhaps a little shrinking at the thought of 
personal contact with the dark faces of whom 
Americans always think when " colored peo- 
ple " are spoken of. Again, a class of forty 
pupils was not to be despised, for she taught 
for money, which was equally current and 
desirable, regardless of its color. She had 
consulted her foster-parents, and after them 
her lover. Her foster-parents, who were Ger- 
man-born, and had never become thoroughly 
Americanized, saw no objection. As for her 
lover, he was indifferent. 

" Do as you please," he said. " It may 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 37 

drive away some other pupils. If it should 
break up the business entirely, perhaps you 
might be willing to give me a chance so 
much the sooner." 

She mentioned the matter to one or two 
other friends, who expressed conflicting opin- 
ions. She decided at length to take the class, 
and take the consequences. 

" I don't think it would be either right or 
kind to refuse them for any such reason, and 
I don't believe I shall lose anything by it." 

She was somewhat surprised, and pleasantly 
so, when her class came together for their 
first lesson, at not finding them darker and 
more uncouth. Her pupils were mostly peo- 
ple whom she would have passed on the street 
without a second glance, and among them 
were several whom she had known by sight 
for years, but had never dreamed of as being 
colored people. Their manners were good, 
they dressed quietly and as a rule with good 
taste, avoiding rather than choosing bright 
colors and striking combinations — whether 
from natural preference, or because of a 
slightly morbid shrinking from criticism, of 
course she could not say. Among them, the 
dancing- mistress soon learned, there were law- 



38 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

yers and doctors, teachers, telegraph operators, 
clerks, milliners and dressmakers, students of 
the local college and scientific school, and, 
somewhat to her awe at the first meeting, 
even a member of the legislature. They were 
mostly young, although a few light - hearted 
older people joined the class, as much for 
company as for the dancing. 

" Of course, Miss Hohlfelder," explained 
Mr. Solomon Sadler, to whom the teacher had 
paid a compliment on the quality of the class, 
" the more advanced of us are not numerous 
enough to make the fine distinctions that are 
possible among white people ; and of course 
as we rise in life we can't get entirely away 
from our brothers and our sisters and our 
cousins, who don't always keep abreast of us. 
We do, however, draw certain lines of charac- 
ter and manners and occupation. You see 
the sort of people we are. Of course we have 
no prejudice against color, and we regard all 
labor as honorable, provided a man does the 
best he can. But we must have standards 
that will give our people something to 
aspire to." 

The class was not a difficult one, as many 
of the members were already fairly good 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 39 

dancers. Indeed the class had been formed 
as much for pleasure as for instruction. 
Music and hall rent and a knowledge of the 
latest dances could be obtained cheaper in 
this way than in any other. The pupils had 
made rapid progress, displaying in fact a 
natural aptitude for rhythmic motion, and a 
keen susceptibility to musical sounds. As 
their race had never been criticised for these 
characteristics, they gave them full play, and 
soon developed, most of them, into graceful 
and indefatigable dancers. They were now 
almost at the end of their course, and this 
was the evening of the last lesson but one. 

Miss Hohlf elder had remarked to her lover 
more than once that it was a pleasure to 
teach them. " They enter into the spirit of it 
so thoroughly, and they seem to enjoy them- 
selves so much." 

" One would think," he suggested, " that 
the whitest of them would find their position 
painful and more or less pathetic ; to be so 
white and yet to be classed as black — so near 
and yet so far." 

" They don't accept our classification 
blindly. They do not acknowledge any in- 
feriority ; they think they are a great deal 



40 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

better than any but the best white people/' 
replied Miss Hohlf elder. " And since they 
have been coming here, do you know/' she 
went on, " I hardly think of them as any dif- 
ferent from other people. I feel perfectly at 
home among them." 

" It is a great thing to have faith in one's 
self," he replied. " It is a fine thing, too, to 
be able to enjoy the passing moment. One of 
your greatest charms in my eyes, Clara, is that 
in your lighter moods you have this faculty. 
You sing because you love to sing. You find 
pleasure in dancing, even by way of work. 
You feel the joi de vivre — the joy of living. 
You are not always so, but when you are so 
I think you most delightful." 

Miss Hohlfelder, upon entering the hall, 
spoke to the pianist and then exchanged a few 
words with various members of the class. 
The pianist began to play a dreamy Strauss 
waltz. When the dance was well under way 
Miss Hohlfelder left the hall again and 
stepped into the ladies' dressing - room. 
There was a woman seated quietly on a couch 
in a corner, her hands folded on her lap. 

" Good-evening, Miss Hohlfelder. You 
do not seem as bright as usual to-night." 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 41 

Miss Hohlf elder felt a sudden yearning for 
sympathy. Perhaps it was the gentle tones of 
the greeting; perhaps the kindly expression 
of the soft though faded eyes that were scan- 
ning Miss Hohlf elder's features. The woman 
was of the indefinite age between forty and 
fifty. There were lines on her face which, if 
due to years, might have carried her even 
past the half -century mark, but if caused 
by trouble or ill health might leave her some- 
what below it. She was quietly dressed in 
black, and wore her slightly wavy hair low 
over her ears, where it lay naturally in the 
ripples which some others of her sex so 
sedulously seek by art. A little woman, of 
clear olive complexion and regular features, 
her face was almost a perfect oval, except as 
time had marred its outline. She had been 
in the habit of coming to the class with some 
young women of the family she lived with, 
part boarder, part seamstress and friend of 
the family. Sometimes, while waiting for 
her young charges, the music would jar her 
nerves, and she would seek the comparative 
quiet of the dressing-room. 

" Oh, I 'm all right, Mrs. Harper," replied 
the dancing-mistress, with a brave attempt at 



42 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

cheerfulness, — "just a little tired, after a 
hard day's work." 

She sat down on the couch by the elder 
woman's side. Mrs. Harper took her hand 
and stroked it gently, and Clara felt soothed 
and quieted by her touch. 

" There are tears in your eyes and trouble 
in your face. I know it, for I have shed the 
one and known the other. Tell me, child, 
what ails you? I am older than you, and 
perhaps I have learned some things in the 
hard school of life that may be of comfort or 
service to you." 

Such a request, coming from a comparative 
stranger, might very properly have been re- 
sented or lightly parried. But Clara was not 
what would be called self-contained. Her 
griefs seemed lighter when they were shared 
with others, even in spirit. There was in 
her nature a childish strain that craved 
sympathy and comforting. She had never 
known — or if so it was only in a dim and 
dreamlike past — the tender, brooding care 
that was her conception of a mother's love. 
Mrs. Hohlfelder had been fond of her in a 
placid way, and had given her every com- 
fort and luxury her means permitted. Clara's 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 43 

ideal of maternal love had been of another 
and more romantic type ; she had thought of 
a fond, impulsive mother, to whose bosom 
she could fly when in trouble or distress, and 
to whom she could communicate her sorrows 
and trials ; who would dry her tears and 
soothe her with caresses. Now, when even 
her hind foster-mother was gone, she felt still 
more the need of sympathy and companion- 
ship with her own sex ; and when this little 
Mrs. Harper spoke to her so gently, she felt 
her heart respond instinctively. 

" Yes, Mrs. Harper," replied Clara with a 
sigh, " I am in trouble, but it is trouble that 
you nor any one else can heal." 

" You do not know, child. A simple 
remedy can sometimes cure a very grave 
complaint. Tell me your trouble, if it is 
something you are at liberty to tell." 

" I have a story," said Clara, " and it is a 
strange one, — a story I have told to but one 
other person, one very dear to me." 

" He must be dear to you indeed, from the 
tone in which you speak of him. Your very 
accents breathe love." 

" Yes, I love him, and if you saw him — 
perhaps you have seen him, for he has looked 



44 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

in here once or twice during the dancing- 
lessons — you would know why I love him. 
He is handsome, he is learned, he is ambitious, 
he is brave, he is good ; he is poor, but he 
will not always be so ; and he loves me, oh, so 
much ! " 

The other woman smiled. "It is not so 
strange to love, nor yet to be loved. And 
all lovers are handsome and brave and fond." 

" That is not all of my story. He wants 
to marry me." Clara paused, as if to let this 
statement impress itself upon the other. 

" True lovers always do," said the elder 
woman. 

" But sometimes, you know, there are cir- 
cumstances which prevent them." 

" Ah yes," murmured the other reflec- 
tively, and looking at the girl with deeper 
interest, " circumstances which prevent them. 
I have known of such a case." 

" The circumstance which prevents us from 
marrying is my story." 

" Tell me your story, child, and perhaps, if 
I cannot help you otherwise, I can tell you 
one that will make yours seem less sad." 

" You know me," said the young woman, 
" as Miss Hohlf elder ; but that is not actu- 



HEB VIRGINIA MAMMY 45 

ally my name. In fact I do not know my 
real name, for I am not the daughter of Mr. 
and Mrs. Hohlfelder, but only an adopted 
child. While Mrs. Hohlfelder lived, I never 
knew that I was not her child. I knew I was 
very different from her and father, — I mean 
Mr. Hohlfelder. I knew they were fair and 
I was dark; they were stout and I was slen- 
der ; they were slow and I was quick. But 
of course I never dreamed of the true reason 
of this difference. When mother — Mrs. 
Hohlfelder — died, I found among her things 
one day a little packet, carefully wrapped up, 
containing a child's slip and some trinkets. 
The paper wrapper of the packet bore an in- 
scription that awakened my curiosity. I 
asked father Hohlfelder whose the things had 
been, and then for the first time I learned 
my real story. 

" I was not their own daughter, he stated, 
but an adopted child. Twenty-three years 
ago, when he had lived in St. Louis, a steam- 
boat explosion had occurred up the river, and 
on a piece of wreckage floating down stream, 
a girl baby had been found. There was 
nothing on the child to give a hint of its 
home or parentage ; and no one came to claim 



46 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

it, though the fact that a child had been 
found was advertised all along the river. 
It was believed that the infant's parents must 
have perished in the wreck, and certainly no 
one of those who were saved could identify 
the child. There had been a passenger list 
on board the steamer, but the list, with the 
officer who kept it, had been lost in the acci- 
dent. The child was turned over to an or- 
phan asylum, from which within a year it 
was adopted by the two kind-hearted and 
childless German people who brought it up 
as their own. I was that child. " 

The woman seated by Clara's side had 
listened with strained attention. " Did you 
learn the name of the steamboat ? " she asked 
quietly, but quickly, when Clara paused. 

" The Pride of St. Louis," answered Clara. 
She did not look at Mrs. Harper, but was 
gazing dreamily toward the front, and there- 
fore did not see the expression that sprang 
into the other's face, — a look in which hope 
struggled with fear, and yearning love with 
both, — nor the strong effort with which 
Mrs. Harper controlled herself and moved not 
one muscle while the other went on. 

" I was never sought," Clara continued, 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 47 

"and the good people who brought me up 
gave me every care. Father and mother — 
I can never train my tongue to call them any- 
thing else — were very good to me. When 
they adopted me they were poor ; he was a 
pharmacist with a small shop. Later on he 
moved to Cincinnati, where he made and sold 
a popular i patent ' medicine and amassed a 
fortune. Then I went to a fashionable school, 
was taught French, and deportment, and dan- 
cing. Father Hohlfelder made some bad 
investments, and lost most of his money. The 
patent medicine fell off in popularity. A 
year or two ago we came to this city to live. 
Father bought this block and opened the 
little drug store below. We moved into the 
rooms upstairs. The business was poor, and 
I felt that I ought to do something to earn 
money and help support the family. I could 
dance ; we had this hall, and it was not rented 
all the time, so I opened a dancing-school." 

" Tell me, child," said the other woman, 
with restrained eagerness, "what were the 
things found upon you when you were taken 
from the river ? " 

"Yes," answered the girl, "I will. But I 
have not told you all my story, for this is but 



48 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

the prelude. About a year ago a young doc- 
tor rented an office in our block. We met 
each other, at first only now and then, and 
afterwards oftener ; and six months ago he 
told me that he loved me." 

She paused, and sat with half opened lips 
and dreamy eyes, looking back into the past 
six months. 

" And the things found upon you " — 

" Yes, I will show them to you when you 
have heard all my story. He wanted to marry 
me, and has asked me every week since. I have 
told him that I love him, but I have not said 
I would marry him. I don't think it would 
be right for me to do so, unless I could clear 
up this mystery. I believe he is going to be 
great and rich and famous, and there might 
come a time when he would be ashamed of 
me. I don't say that I shall never marry 
him ; for I have hoped — I have a presenti- 
ment that in some strange way I shall find 
out who I am, and who my parents were. It 
may be mere imagination on my part, but 
somehow I believe it is more than that." 

" Are you sure there was no mark on the 
things that were found upon you?" said the 
elder woman. 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 49 

" Ah yes," sighed Clara, " I am sure, for I 
have looked at them a hundred times. They 
tell me nothing, and yet they suggest to me 
many things. Come," she said, taking the 
other by the hand, " and I will show them 
to you." 

She led the way along the hall to her sit- 
ting-room, and to her bedchamber beyond. 
It was a small room hung with paper showing a 
pattern of morning-glories on a light ground, 
with dotted muslin curtains, a white iron bed- 
stead, a few prints on the wall, a rocking- 
chair — a very dainty room. She went to 
the maple dressing-case, and opened one of 
the drawers. 

As they stood for a moment, the mirror re- 
flecting and framing their image, more 
than one point of resemblance between them 
was emphasized. There was something of 
the same oval face, and in Clara's hair a faint 
suggestion of the wave in the older wo- 
man's ; and though Clara was fairer of com- 
plexion, and her eyes were gray and the 
other's black, there was visible, under the in- 
fluence of the momentary excitement, one of 
those indefinable likenesses which are at times 
encountered, — sometimes marking blood re- 



50 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

lationship, sometimes the impress of a common 
training; in one case perhaps a mere earmark 
of temperament, and in another the index of 
a type. Except for the difference in color, 
one might imagine that if the younger woman 
were twenty years older the resemblance 
would be still more apparent. 

Clara reached her hand into the drawer 
and drew out a folded packet, which she un- 
wrapped, Mrs. Harper following her move- 
ments meanwhile with a suppressed intensity 
of interest which Clara, had she not been 
absorbed in her own thoughts, could not 
have failed to observe. 

When the last fold of paper was removed 
there lay revealed a child's muslin slip. Clara 
lifted it and shook it gently until it was un- 
folded before their eyes. The lower half 
was delicately worked in a lacelike pattern, 
revealing an immense amount of patient 
labor. 

The elder woman seized the slip with hands 
which could not disguise their trembling. 
Scanning the garment carefully, she seemed 
to be noting the pattern of the needlework, 
and then, pointing to a certain spot, ex- 
claimed : — 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 51 

" I thought so ! I was sure of it ! Do you 
not see the letters — M. S. ? " 

" Oh, how wonderful ! " Clara seized the 
slip in turn and scanned the monogram. 
" How strange that you should see that at once 
and that I should not have discovered it 
who have looked at it a hundred times ! And 
here/' she added, opening a small pack- 
age which had been inclosed in the other, 
"is my coral necklace. Perhaps your keen 
eyes can find something in that." 

It was a simple trinket, at which the older 
woman gave but a glance — a glance that 
added to her emotion. 

''' Listen, child," she said, laying her trem- 
bling hand on the other's arm. "It is all 
very strange and wonderful, for that slip and 
necklace, and, now that I have seen them, 
your face and your voice and your ways, all 
tell me who you are. Your eyes are your 
father's eyes, your voice is your father's voice. 
The slip was worked by your mother's hand." 
" Oh ! ' cried Clara, and for a moment the 
whole world swam before her eyes. 

" I was on the Pride of St. Louis, and I 
knew your father — and your mother." 
Clara, pale with excitement, burst into tears, 



52 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

and would have fallen had not the other wo- 
man caught her in her arms. Mrs. Harper 
placed her on the couch, and, seated by her 
side, supported her head on her shoulder. 
Her hands seemed to caress the young woman 
with every touch. 

"Tell me, oh, tell me all!" Clara de- 
manded, when the first wave of emotion had 
subsided. " Who were my father and my 
mother, and who am I ? " 

The elder woman restrained her emotion 
with an effort, and answered as composedly as 
she could, — 

" There were several hundred passengers on 
the Pride of St. Louis when she left Cincin- 
nati on that fateful day, on her regular trip 
to New Orleans. Your father and mother 
were on the boat — and I was on the boat. 
We were going down the river, to take ship 
at New Orleans for France, a country which 
your father loved." 

" Who was my father? " asked Clara. The 
woman's words fell upon her ear like water 
on a thirsty soil. 

" Your father was a Virginia gentleman, 
and belonged to one of the first families, 
the Staffords, of Melton County." 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 53 

Clara drew herself up unconsciously, and 
into her face there came a frank expression 
of pride which became it wonderfully, setting 
off a beauty that needed only this to make it 
all but perfect of its type. 

"I knew it must be so," she murmured. 
" I have often felt it. Blood will always tell. 
And my mother? " 

' Your mother — also belonged to one of 
the first families of Virginia, and in her veins 
flowed some of the best blood of the Old Do- 
minion." 

: What was her maiden name ? " 
"Mary Fairfax. As I was saying, your 
father was a Virginia gentleman. He was as 
handsome a man as ever lived, and proud, oh, 
so proud ! — and good, and kind. He was a 
graduate of the University and had studied 
abroad." 

" My mother — was she beautiful ? " 
''' She was much admired, and your father 
loved her from the moment he first saw her. 
Your father came back from Europe, upon his 
father's sudden death, and entered upon his 
inheritance. But he had been away from 
Virginia so long, and had read so many books, 
that he had outgrown his home. He did not 



54 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

believe that slavery was right, and one of the 
first things he did was to free his slaves. 
His views were not popular, and he sold out 
his lands a year before the war, with the inten- 
tion of moving to Europe." 

" In the mean time he had met and loved 
and married my mother?" 

" In the mean time he had met and loved 
your mother." 

" My mother was a Virginia belle, was she 
not? " 

" The Fairfaxes," answered Mrs. Harper, 
" were the first of the first families, the bluest 
of the blue-bloods. The Miss Fairfaxes were 
all beautiful and all social favorites." 

" What did my father do then, when he 
had sold out in Virginia ? " 

" He went with your mother and you — you 
were then just a year old — to Cincinnati, 
to settle up some business connected with 
his estate. When he had completed his 
business, he embarked on the Pride of St. 
Louis with you and your mother and a colored 



nurse." 



"And how did you know about them?" 
asked Clara. 

" I was one of the party. I was " — 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 55 

" You were the colored nurse ? — my 
i mammy/ they would have called you in my 
old Virginia home ? " 

" Yes, child, I was — your mammy. Upon 
my bosom you have rested ; my breasts once 
gave you nourishment ; my hands once min- 
istered to you ; my arms sheltered you, and 
my heart loved you and mourned you like a 
mother loves and mourns her firstborn." 

" Oh, how strange, how delightful ! ,: ex- 
claimed Clara. " Now I understand why you 
clasped me so tightly, and were so agitated 
when I told you my story. It is too good 
for me to believe. I am of good blood, of 
an old and aristocratic family. My presenti- 
ment has come true. I can marry my lover, 
and I shall owe all my happiness to you. How 
can I ever repay you ? " 

" You can kiss me, child, kiss your 
mammy." 

Their lips met, and they were clasped in 
each other's arms. One put into the embrace 
all of her new-found joy, the other all the 
suppressed feeling of the last half hour, which 
in turn embodied the unsatisfied yearning of 
many years. 

The music had ceased and the pupils had 



56 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

left the hall. Mrs. Harper's charges had sup- 
posed her gone, and had left for home with- 
out her. But the two women, sitting in 
Clara's chamber, hand in hand, were oblivious 
to external things and noticed neither the 
hour nor the cessation of the music. 

" Why, dear mammy," said the young 
woman musingly, " did you not find me, and 
restore me to my people ? ' 

" Alas, child ! I was not white, and when 
I was picked up from the water, after floating 
miles down the river, the man who found me 
kept me prisoner for a time, and, there being 
no inquiry for me, pretended not to believe 
that I was free, and took me down to New 
Orleans and sold me as a slave. A few years 
later the war set me free. I went to St. Louis 
but could find no trace of you. I had hardly 
dared to hope that a child had been saved, 
when so many grown men and women had 
lost their lives. I made such inquiries as I 
could, but all in vain." 

" Did you go to the orphan asylum ? " 

" The orphan asylum had been burned and 
with it all the records. The war had scattered 
the people so that I could find no one who 
knew about a lost child saved from a river 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 57 

wreck. There were many orphans in those 
days, and one more or less was not likely to 
dwell in the public mind." 

" Did you tell my people in Virginia ? ' : 

" They, too, were scattered by the war. 
Your uncles lost their lives on the battlefield. 
The family mansion was burned to the ground. 
Your father's remaining relatives were reduced 
to poverty, and moved away from Virginia." 

" What of my mother's people ? ' 

" They are all dead. God punished them. 
They did not love your father, and did not 
wish him to marry your mother. They helped 
to drive him to his death." 

" I am alone in the world, then, without 
kith or kin," murmured Clara, " and yet, 
strange to say, I am happy. If I had known 
my people and lost them, I should be sad. 
They are gone, but they have left me their 
name and their blood. I would weep for my 
poor father and mother if I were not so glad." 

Just then some one struck a chord upon the 
piano in the hall, and the sudden breaking of 
the stillness recalled Clara's attention to the 
lateness of the hour. 

" I had forgotten about the class," she ex- 
claimed. " I must go and attend to them." 



58 HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 

They walked along the corridor and entered 
the hall. Dr. Winthrop was seated at the 
piano, drumming idly on the keys. 

" I did not know where you had gone/' he 
said. " I knew you would be around, of 
course, since the lights were not out, and so I 
came in here to wait for you." 

" Listen, John, I have a wonderful story to 
tell you." 

Then she told him Mrs. Harper's story. 
He listened attentively and sympathetically, 
at certain points taking his eyes from Clara's 
face and glancing keenly at Mrs. Harper, who 
was listening intently. As he looked from 
one to the other he noticed the resemblance 
between them, and something in his expression 
caused Mrs. Harper's eyes to fall, and then 
glance up appealingly. 

" And now," said Clara, " I am happy. I 
know my name. I am a Virginia Stafford. 
I belong to one, yes, to two of what were the 
first families of Virginia. John, my family is 
as good as yours. If I remember my history 
correctly, the Cavaliers looked down upon the 
Roundheads." 

" I admit my inferiority," he replied. " If 
you are happy I am glad." 



HER VIRGINIA MAMMY 59 

" Clara Stafford/' mused the girl. " It is 
a pretty name." 

" You will never have to use it," her lover 
declared, " for now you will take mine." 

" Then I shall have nothing left of all that 
I have found " — 

" Except your husband," asserted Dr. Win- 
throp, putting his arm around her, with an air 
of assured possession. 

Mrs. Harper was looking at them with 
moistened eyes in which joy and sorrow, love 
and gratitude, were strangely blended. Clara 
put out her hand to her impulsively. 

" And my mammy," she cried, " my dear 
Virginia mammy." 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

Branson County, North Carolina, is in a 
sequestered district of one of the staidest 
and most conservative States of the Union. 
Society in Branson County is almost primitive 
in its simplicity. Most of the white people 
own the farms they till, and even before the 
war there were no very wealthy families to 
force their neighbors, by comparison, into the 
category of " poor whites." 

To Branson County, as to most rural com- 
munities in the South, the war is the one his- 
torical event that overshadows all others. It 
is the era from which all local chronicles 
are dated, — births, deaths, marriages, storms, 
freshets. No description of the life of any 
Southern community would be perfect that 
failed to emphasize the all pervading influ- 
ence of the great conflict. 

Yet the fierce tide of war that had 
rushed through the cities and along the great 
highways of the country had comparatively 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 61 

speaking but slightly disturbed the sluggish 
current of life in this region, remote from 
railroads and navigable streams. To the 
north in Virginia, to the west in Tennessee, 
and all alonsr the seaboard the war had 
rao'ed ; but the thunder of its cannon had 
not disturbed the echoes of Branson County, 
where the loudest sounds heard were the 
crack of some hunter's rifle, the baying of 
some deep-mouthed hound, or the yodel of 
some tuneful negro on his way through the 
pine forest. To the east, Sherman's army 
had passed on its march to the sea ; but 
no straggling band of " bummers " had pene- 
trated the confines of Branson County. The 
war, it is true, had robbed the county of the 
flower of its young manhood ; but the burden 
of taxation, the doubt and uncertainty of the 
conflict, and the sting of ultimate defeat, had 
been borne by the people with an apathy 
that robbed misfortune of half its sharpness. 

The nearest approach to town life afforded 
by Branson County is found in the little vil- 
lage of Troy, the county seat, a hamlet with 
a population of four or five hundred. 

Ten years make little difference in the 
appearance of these remote Southern towns. 



62 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

If a railroad is built through one of them, it 
infuses some enterprise ; the social corpse is 
galvanized by the fresh blood of civilization 
that pulses along the farthest ramifications of 
our great system of commercial highways. 
At the period of which I write, no railroad 
had come to Troy. If a traveler, accustomed 
to the bustling life of cities, could have rid- 
den through Troy on a summer day, he 
might easily have fancied himself in a de- 
serted village. Around him he would have 
seen weather-beaten houses, innocent of paint, 
the shingled roofs in many instances covered 
with a rich growth of moss. Here and there 
he would have met a razor-backed hog lazily 
rooting his way along the principal thorough- 
fare; and more than once be would probably 
have had to disturb the slumbers of some 
yellow dog, dozing away the hours in the 
ardent sunshine, and reluctantly yielding up 
his place in the middle of the dusty road. 

On Saturdays the village presented a some- 
what livelier appearance, and the shade trees 
around the court house square and along 
Front Street served as hitching-posts for a 
goodly number of horses and mules and 
stunted oxen, belonging to the farmer-folk 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 63 

who had come in to trade at the two or three 
local stores. 

A murder was a rare event in Branson 
County. Every well-informed citizen could 
tell the number of homicides committed in 
the county for fifty years back, and whether 
the slayer, in any given instance, had escaped, 
either by flight or acquittal, or had suffered 
the penalty of the law. So, when it became 
known in Troy early one Friday morning in 
summer, about ten years after the war, that 
old Captain Walker, who had served in Mex- 
ico under Scott, and had left an arm on the 
field of Gettysburg, had beeu foully murdered 
during the night, there was intense excite- 
ment in the village. Business was practically 
suspended, and the citizens gathered in little 
groups to discuss the murder, and speculate 
upon the identity of the murderer. It tran- 
spired from testimony at the coroner's inquest, 
held during the morning, that a strange mu- 
latto had been seen going in the direction of 
Captain Walker's house the night before, and 
had been met going away from Troy early 
Friday morning, by a farmer on his way to 
town. Other circumstances seemed to con- 
nect the stranger with the crime. The sheriff 



64 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

organized a posse to search for him, and early 
in the evening, when most of the citizens of 
Troy were at supper, the suspected man was 
brought in and lodged in the county jail. 

By the following morning the news of the 
capture had spread to the farthest limits of 
the county. A much larger number of peo- 
ple than usual came to town that Saturday, — 
bearded men in straw hats and blue homespun 
shirts, and butternut trousers of great ampli- 
tude of material and vagueness of outline ; 
women in homespun frocks and slat-bonnets, 
with faces as expressionless as the dreary 
sandhills which gave them a meagre suste- 
nance. 

The murder was almost the sole topic of 
conversation. A steady stream of curious 
observers visited the house of mourning, and 
gazed upon the rugged face of the old veteran, 
now stiff and cold in death ; and more than 
one eye dropped a tear at the remembrance of 
the cheery smile, and the joke — sometimes 
superannuated, generally feeble, but always 
good-natured — with which the captain had 
been wont to greet his acquaintances. There 
was a growing sentiment of anger among 
these stern men, toward the murderer who 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 65 

had thus cut down their friend, and a strong 
feeling that ordinary justice was too slight a 
punishment for such a crime. 

Toward noon there was an informal gather- 
ing of citizens in Dan Tyson's store. 

"I hear it 'lowed that Square Kyahtah's 
too sick ter hoF co'te this evenin'," said one, 
" an' that the purlim'nary hearin' '11 haf ter 
go over 'tel nex' week." 

A look of disappointment went round the 
crowd. 

" Hit 's the durndes', meanes' murder ever 
committed in this caounty," said another, with 
moody emphasis. 

" I s'pose the nigger 'lowed the Cap'n had 
some greenbacks," observed a third speaker. 

" The Cap'n," said another, with an air of 
superior information, " has left two bairls of 
Confedrit money, which he 'spected 'ud be 
good some day er nuther." 

This statement gave rise to a discussion of 
the speculative value of Confederate money ; 
but in a little while the conversation returned 
to the murder. 

" Hangin' air too good fer the murderer," 
said one ; " he oughter be burnt, stidier bein' 
hung." 



66 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

There was an impressive pause at this point, 
during which a jug of moonlight whiskey went 
the round of the crowd. 

" Well/' said a round-shouldered farmer, 
who, in spite of his peaceable expression and 
faded gray eye, was known to have been one 
of the most daring followers of a rebel 
guerrilla chieftain, " what air yer gwine ter do 
about it? Ef you fellers air gwine ter set 
down an' let a wuthless nigger kill the bes' 
white man in Branson, an' not say nuthin' ner 
do nuthin', I'll move outen the caounty." 

This speech gave tone and direction to the 
rest of the conversation. Whether the fear 
of losing the round-shouldered farmer oper- 
ated to bring about the result or not is im- 
material to this narrative ; but, at all events, 
the crowd decided to lynch the negro. They 
agreed that this was the least that could be 
done to avenge the death of their murdered 
friend, and that it was a becoming way in 
which to honor his memory. They had some 
vague notions of the majesty of the law and 
the rights of the citizen, but in the passion of 
the moment these sunk into oblivion ; a white 
man had been killed by a negro. 

" The Cap'n was an ole sodger," said one 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 67 

of his friends solemnly. " He '11 sleep better 
when he knows that a co'te-martial has be'n 
hilt an' jestice done." 

By agreement the lynchers were to meet at 
Tyson's store at five o'clock in the afternoon, 
and proceed thence to the jail, which was 
situated down the Lumberton Dirt Road (as 
the old turnpike antedating the plank-road 
was called), about half a mile south of the 
court-house. When the preliminaries of the 
lynching had been arranged, and a committee 
appointed to manage the affair, the crowd 
dispersed, some to go to their dinners, and 
some to secure recruits for the lynching party. 

It was twenty minutes to five o'clock, when 
an excited negro, panting and perspiring, 
rushed up to the back door of Sheriff Camp- 
bell's dwelling, which stood at a little distance 
from the jail and somewhat farther than the 
latter building from the court-house. A tur- 
baned colored woman came to the door in re- 
sponse to the negro's knock. 
Hoddy, Sis' Nance." 
Hoddy, Brer Sam." 

" Is de shurff in," inquired the negro. 

" Yas, Brer Sam, he 's eatin' his dinner," 
was the answer. 



a 
u 



68 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

" Will yer ax 'im ter step ter de do' a min- 
ute, Sis' Nance ? " 

The woman went into the dining-room, and 
a moment later the sheriff came to the door. 
He was a tall, muscular man, of a ruddier 
complexion than is usual among Southerners. 
A pair of keen, deep-set gray eyes looked out 
from under bushy eyebrows, and about his 
mouth was a masterful expression, which a 
full beard, once sandy in color, but now pro- 
fusely sprinkled with gray, could not entirely 
conceal. The day was hot ; the sheriff had 
discarded his coat and vest, and had his white 
shirt open at the throat. 

" What do you want, Sam ? " he inquired 
of the negro, who stood hat in hand, wiping 
the moisture from his face with a ragged 
shirt-sleeve. 

" Shurff, dey gwine ter hang de pris'ner 
w'at 's lock' up in de jail. Dey 're comin' 
dis a-way now. I wuz layin' down on a sack 
er corn down at de sto', behine a pile er flour- 
bairls, w'en I hearn Doc' Cain en Kunnel 
Wright talkin' erbout it. I slip' outen de 
back do', en run here as fas' as I could. I 
hearn you say down ter de sto' once't dat 
you would n't let nobody take a pris'ner 'way 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 69 

fum you widout walkin' over yo' dead body, 
en I thought I 'd let you know 'fo' dey come, 
so yer could pertec' de pris'ner." 

The sheriff listened calmly, but his face grew 
firmer, and a determined gleam lit up his 
gray eyes. His frame grew more erect, and 
he unconsciously assumed the attitude of a 
soldier who momentarily expects to meet the 
enemy face to face. 

" Much obliged, Sam," he answered. " I '11 
protect the prisoner. Who 's coming ? '' 

" I dunno who-all is comin'," replied 
the negro. " Dere 's Mistah McSwayne, en 
Doc' Cain, en Maje' McDonaF, en Kunnel 
Wright, en a heap er yuthers. I wuz so 
skeered I done f urgot mo' d'n half un em. I 
spec' dey mus' be mos' here by dis time, so 
I '11 git outen de way, f er I don' want no- 
body fer ter think I wuz mix' up in dis busi- 
ness." The negro glanced nervously down 
the road toward the town, and made a move- 
ment as if to go away. 

" Won't you have some dinner first ? " 
asked the sheriff. 

The negro looked longingly in at the open 
door, and sniffed the appetizing odor of boiled 
pork and collards. 



70 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

u I ain't got no time f er ter tarry, Shurff," 
he said, " but Sis' Nance mought gin me 
sump'n I could kyar in my han' en eat on de 
way." 

A moment later Nancy brought him a huge 
sandwich of split corn-pone, with a thick slice 
of fat bacon inserted between the halves, and 
a couple of baked yams. The negro hastily 
replaced his ragged hat on his head, dropped 
the yams in the pocket of his capacious trou- 
sers, and, taking the sandwich in his hand, 
hurried across the road and disappeared in 
the woods beyond. 

The sheriff reentered the house, and put 
on his coat and hat. He then took down a 
double-barreled shotgun and loaded it with 
buckshot. Filling the chambers of a revolver 
with fresh cartridges, he slipped it into the 
pocket of the sack-coat which he wore. 

A comely young woman in a calico dress 
watched these proceedings with anxious sur- 
prise. 

" Where are you going, father ? " she 
asked. She had not heard the conversation 
with the negro. 

"I am goin' over to the jail," responded 
the sheriff. " There 's a mob comin' this way 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 71 

to lynch the nigger we 've got locked up. 
But they won't do it," he added, with em- 
phasis. 

" Oh, father !. don't go ! " pleaded the girl, 
clinging to his arm ; " they'll shoot you if you 
don't give him up." 

" You never mind me, Polly," said her 
father reassuringly, as he gently unclasped 
her hands from his arm. " I '11 take care of 
myself and the prisoner, too. There ain't a 
man in Branson County that would shoot me. 
Besides, I have faced fire too often to be 
scared away from my duty. You keep close 
in the house," he continued, " and if any one 
disturbs you just use the old horse-pistol in the 
top bureau drawer. It 's a little old-fashioned, 
but it did good work a few years ago." 

The young girl shuddered at this sanguin- 
ary allusion, but made no further objection to 
her father's departure. 

The sheriff of Branson was a man far 
above the average of the community in 
wealth, education, and social position. His 
had been one of the few families in the 
county that before the war had owned large 
estates and numerous slaves. He had gradu- 
ated at the State University at Chapel Hill, 



72 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

and had kept up some acquaintance with cur- 
rent literature and advanced thought. He 
had traveled some in his youth, and was 
looked up to in the county as an authority on 
all subjects connected with the outer world. 
At first an ardent supporter of the Union, he 
had opposed the secession movement in his 
native State as long as opposition availed to 
stem the tide of public opinion. Yielding at 
last to the force of circumstances, he had en- 
tered the Confederate service rather late in 
the war, and served with distinction through 
several campaigns, rising in time to the rank 
of colonel. After the war he had taken the 
oath of allegiance, and had been chosen by 
the people as the most available candidate for 
the office of sheriff, to which he had been 
elected without opposition. He had filled the 
office for several terms, and was universally 
popular with his constituents. 

Colonel or Sheriff Campbell, as he was in- 
differently called, as the military or civil title 
happened to be most important in the opin- 
ion of the person addressing him, had a high 
sense of the responsibility attaching to his 
office. He had sworn to do his duty faith- 
fully, and he knew what his duty was, as 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 73 

sheriff, perhaps more clearly than he had ap- 
prehended it in other passages of his life. 
It was, therefore, with no uncertainty in 
regard to his course that he prepared his 
weapons and went over to the jail. He had 
no fears for Polly's safety. 

The sheriff had just locked the heavy front 
door of the jail behind him when a half dozen 
horsemen, followed by a crowd of men on 
foot, came round a bend in the road and 
drew near the jail. They halted in front of 
the picket fence that surrounded the build- 
ing, while several of the committee of ar- 
rangements rode on a few rods farther to the 
sheriff's house. One of them dismounted 
and rapped on the door with his riding-whip. 

" Is the sheriff at home ? " he inquired. 

" No, he has just gone out," replied Polly, 
who had come to the door. 

" We want the jail keys," he continued. 

" They are not here," said Polly. " The 
sheriff has them himself." Then she added, 
with assumed indifference, " He is at the jail 
now." 

The man turned away, and Polly went into 
the front room, from which she peered anx- 
iously between the slats of the green blinds 



74 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

of a window that looked toward the jail. 
Meanwhile the messenger returned to his 
companions and announced his discovery. It 
looked as though the sheriff had learned of 
their design and was preparing to resist it. 

One of them stepped forward and rapped 
on the jail door. 

" Well, what is it ? " said the sheriff, from 
within. 

" We want to talk to you, Sheriff," replied 
the spokesman. 

There was a little wicket in the door ; this 
the sheriff opened, and answered through it. 

" All right, boys, talk away. You are all 
strangers to me, and I don't know what busi- 
ness you can have." The sheriff did not 
think it necessary to recognize anybody in 
particular on such an occasion ; the question 
of identity sometimes comes up in the inves- 
tigation of these extra-judicial executions. 

" We 're a committee of citizens and we 
want to get into the jail." 

" What for ? It ain't much trouble to get 
into jail. Most people want to keep out." 

The mob was in no humor to appreciate 
a joke, and the sheriff's witticism fell dead 
upon an unresponsive audience. 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 75 

" We want to have a talk with the nigger 
that killed Cap'n Walker." 

" You can talk to that nigger in the court- 
house, when he 's brought out for trial. Court 
will be in session here next week. I know 
what you fellows want, but you can't get my 
prisoner to-day. Do you want to take the 
bread out of a poor man's mouth? I get 
seventy-five cents a day for keeping this pris- 
oner, and he 's the only one in jail. I can't 
have my family suffer just to please you 
fellows." 

One or two young men in the crowd 
laughed at the idea of Sheriff Campbell's 
suffering for want of seventy-five cents a 
day ; but they were frowned into silence by 
those who stood near them. 

" Ef yer don't let us in," cried a voice, 
" we '11 buV the do' open." 

" Bust away," answered the sheriff, raising 
his voice so that all could hear. "But I 
give you fair warning. The first man that 
tries it will be filled with buckshot. I 'm 
sheriff of this county ; I know my duty, and 
I mean to do it." 

"What's the use of kicking, Sheriff?" 
argued one of the leaders of the mob. " The 



76 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

nigger is sure to hang anyhow ; he richly 
deserves it ; and we 've got to do something 
to teach the niggers their places, or white 
people won't be able to live in the county." 

" There 's no use talking, boys/' responded 
the sheriff. " I 'm a white man outside, but 
in this jail I 'm sheriff ; and if this nigger 's 
to be hung in this county, I propose to do 
the hanging. So you fellows might as well 
right-about-face, and march back to Troy. 
You 've had a pleasant trip, and the exercise 
will be good for you. You know me. I 've 
got powder and ball, and I 've faced fire 
before now, with nothing between me and 
the enemy, and I don't mean to surrender 
this jail while I 'm able to shoot." Having 
thus announced his determination, the sheriff 
closed and fastened the wicket, and looked 
around for the best position from which to 
defend the building. 

The crowd drew off a little, and the leaders 
conversed together in low tones. 

The Branson County jail was a small, two- 
story brick building, strongly constructed, 
with no attempt at architectural ornamenta- 
tion. Each story was divided into two large 
cells by a passage running from front to rear. 




"WE'LL BU'S' THE DO' OPEN" 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 77 

A grated iron door gave entrance from the 
passage to each of the four cells. The jail 
seldom had many prisoners in it, and the 
lower windows had been boarded up. When 
the sheriff had closed the wicket, he ascended 
the steep wooden stairs to the upper floor. 
There was no window at the front of the upper 
passage, and the most available position from 
which to watch the movements of the crowd 
below was the front window of the cell occu- 
pied by the solitary prisoner. 

The sheriff unlocked the door and entered 
the cell. The prisoner was crouched in a cor- 
ner, his yellow face, blanched with terror, 
looking ghastly in the semi-darkness of the 
room. A cold perspiration had gathered on 
his forehead, and his teeth were chattering 
with affright. 

" For God's sake, Sheriff," he murmured 
hoarsely, u don't let 'em lynch me ; I did n't 
kill the old man." 

The sheriff glanced at the cowering wretch 
with a look of mingled contempt and loathing. 

" Get up," he said sharply. " You will 
probably be hung sooner or later, but it shall 
not be to-day, if I can help it. I '11 unlock 
your fetters, and if I can't hold the jail, you '11 



78 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

have to make the best fight you can. If I 'm 
shot, I '11 consider my responsibility at an 
end." 

There were iron fetters on the prisoner's 
ankles, and handcuffs on his wrists. These 
the sheriff unlocked, and they fell clanking 
to the floor. 

" Keep back from the window," said the 
sheriff. " They might shoot if they saw you." 

The sheriff drew toward the window a pine 
bench which formed a part of the scanty fur- 
niture of the cell, and laid his revolver upon 
it. Then he took his gun in hand, and took 
his stand at the side of the window where he 
could with least exposure of himself watch the 
movements of the crowd below. 

The lynchers had not anticipated any deter- 
mined resistance. Of course they had looked 
for a formal protest, and perhaps a sufficient 
show of opposition to excuse the sheriff in 
the eye of any stickler for legal formalities. 
They had not however come prepared to fight 
a battle, and no one of them seemed will- 
ing to lead an attack upon the jail. The 
leaders of the party conferred together with a 
good deal of animated gesticulation, which 
was visible to the sheriff from his outlook, 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 79 

though the distance was too great for him to 
hear what was said. At length one of them 
broke away from the group, and rode back to 
the main body of the lynchers, who were rest- 
lessly awaiting orders. 

" Well, boys," said the messenger, " we '11 
have to let it go for the present. The sheriff 
says he '11 shoot, and he 's got the drop on 
us this time. There ain't any of us that 
want to follow Cap'n Walker jest yet. Be- 
sides, the sheriff is a good fellow, and we don't 
want to hurt 'im. But," he added, as if to 
reassure the crowd, which began to show signs 
of disappointment, a the nigger might as well 
say his prayers, for he ain't got long to live." 

There was a murmur of dissent from the 
mob, and several voices insisted that an attack 
be made on the jail. But pacific counsels 
finally prevailed, and the mob sullenly with- 
drew. 

The sheriff stood at the window until they 
had disappeared around the bend in the road. 
He did not relax his watchfulness when the 
last one was out of sight. Their withdrawal 
might be a mere feint, to be followed by a 
further attempt. So closely, indeed, was his 
attention drawn to the outside, that he neither 



80 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

saw nor heard the prisoner creep stealthily 
across the floor, reach out his hand and secure 
the revolver which lay on the bench behind 
the sheriff, and creep as noiselessly back to his 
place in the corner of the room. 

A moment after the last of the lynching 
party had disappeared there was a shot fired 
from the woods across the road; a bullet 
whistled by the window and buried itself in 
the wooden casing a few inches from where 
the sheriff was standing. Quick as thought, 
with the instinct born of a semi-guerrilla army 
experience, he raised his gun and fired twice 
at the point from which a faint puff of smoke 
showed the hostile bullet to have been sent. 
He stood a moment watching, and then rested 
his gun against the window, and reached be- 
hind him mechanically for the other weapon. 
It was not on the bench. As the sheriff real- 
ized this fact, he turned his head and looked 
into the muzzle of the revolver. 

" Stay where you are, Sheriff," said the 
prisoner, his eyes glistening, his face almost 
ruddy with excitement. 

The sheriff mentally cursed his own care- 
lessness for allowing him to be caught in such 
a predicament. He had not expected anything 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 81 

of the kind. He had relied on the negro's 
cowardice and subordination in the presence 
of an armed white man as a matter of course. 
The sheriff was a brave man, but realized that 
the prisoner had him at an immense disadvan- 
tage. The two men stood thus for a moment, 
fighting a harmless duel with their eyes. 

" Well, what do you mean to do ? " asked 
the sheriff with apparent calmness. 

" To get away, of course," said the pris- 
oner, in a tone which caused the sheriff to look 
at him more closely, and with an involuntary 
feeling of apprehension ; if the man was not 
mad, he was in a state of mind akin to mad- 
ness, and quite as dangerous. The sheriff felt 
that he must speak the prisoner fair, and watch 
for a chance to turn the tables on him. The 
keen-eyed, desperate man before him was a 
different being altogether from the groveling 
wretch who had begged so piteously for life 
a few minutes before. 

At length the sheriff spoke : — 

"Is this your gratitude to me for saving 
your life at the risk of my own ? If I had 
not done so, you would now be swinging from 
the limb of some neighboring tree." 

" True," said the prisoner, " you saved my 



82 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

life, but for how long ? When you came in, 
you said Court would sit next week. When 
the crowd went away they said I had not long 
to live. It is merely a choice of two ropes." 

" While there 's life there 's hope/' replied 
the sheriff. He uttered this commonplace 
mechanically, while his brain was busy in try- 
ing to think out some way of escape. " If 
you are innocent you can prove it." 

The mulatto kept his eye upon the sheriff. 
" I did n't kill the old man," he replied ; 
"but I shall never be able to clear myself. 
I was at his house at nine o'clock. I stole 
from it the coat that was on my back when I 
was taken. I would be convicted, even with 
a fair trial, unless the real murderer were dis- 
covered beforehand." 

The sheriff knew this only too well. While 
he was thinking what argument next to use, 
the prisoner continued : — 

" Throw me the keys — no, unlock the 
door." 

The sheriff stood a moment irresolute. 
The mulatto's eye glittered ominously. The 
sheriff crossed the room and unlocked the 
door leading into the passage. 

" Now go down and unlock the outside 
door." 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 83 

The heart of the sheriff leaped within him. 
Perhaps he might make a dash for liberty, 
and o^ain the outside. He descended the 
narrow stairs, the prisoner keeping close be- 
hind him. 

The sheriff inserted the huge iron key into 
the lock. The rusty bolt yielded slowly. It 
still remained for him to pull the door open. 

"Stop!' thundered the mulatto, who 
seemed to divine the sheriff's purpose. "Move 
a muscle, and I '11 blow your brains out." 

The sheriff obeyed ; he realized that his 
chance had not yet come. 

" Now keep on that side of the passage, 
and go back upstairs." 

Keeping the sheriff under cover of the re- 
volver, the mulatto followed him up the stairs. 
The sheriff expected the prisoner to lock him 
into the cell and make his own escape. He 
had about come to the conclusion that the best 
thing he could do under the circumstances 
was to submit quietly, and take his chances 
of recapturing the prisoner after the alarm 
had been given. The sheriff had faced death 
more than once upon the battlefield. A few 
minutes before, well armed, and with a brick 
wall between him and them he had dared a 



84 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

hundred men to fight; but he felt instinc- 
tively that the desperate man confronting him 
was not to be trifled with, and he was too 
prudent a man to risk his life against such 
heavy odds. He had Polly to look after, and 
there was a limit beyond which devotion to 
duty would be quixotic and even foolish. 

" I want to get away," said the prisoner, 
" and I don't want to be captured ; for if I 
am I know I will be hung on the spot. I 
am afraid," he added somewhat reflectively, 
" that in order to save myself I shall have to 
kill you." 

" Good God ! ' exclaimed the sheriff in 
involuntary terror ; " you would not kill the 
man to whom you owe your own life." 

" You speak more truly than you know," 
replied the mulatto. " I indeed owe my life 
to you." 

The sheriff started. He was capable of 
surprise, even in that moment of extreme 
peril. " Who are you ? " he asked in amaze- 
ment. 

" Tom, Cicely's son," returned the other. 
He had closed the door and stood talking 
to the sheriff through the grated opening. 
" Don't you remember Cicely — Cicely whom 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 85 

you sold, with her child, to the speculator on 
his way to Alabama ? " 

The sheriff did remember. He- had been 
sorry for it many a time since. It had been 
the old story of debts, mortgages, and bad 
crops. He had quarreled with the mother. 
The price offered for her and her child had 
been unusually large, and he had yielded 
to the combination of anger and pecuniary 
stress. 

" Good God ! ' he gasped, " you would 
not murder your own father ? " 

" My father ? " replied the mulatto. " It 
were well enough for me to claim the relation- 
ship, but it comes with poor grace from you 
to ask anything by reason of it. What 
father's duty have you ever performed for 
me? Did you give me your name, or even 
your protection ? Other white men gave their 
colored sons freedom and monev, and sent 
them to the free States. You sold me to the 
rice swamps." 

" I at least gave you the life you cling to," 
murmured the sheriff. 

" Life ? " said the prisoner, with a sarcastic 
laugh. " What kind of a life ? You gave 
me your own blood, your own features, — no 



86 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

man need look at us together twice to see 
that, — and you gave me a black mother. 
Poor wretch ! She died under the lash, be- 
cause she had enough womanhood to call her 
soul her own. You gave me a white man's 
spirit, and you made me a slave, and crushed 
it out." 

" But vou are free now," said the sheriff. 
He had not doubted, could not doubt, the 
mulatto's word. He knew whose passions 
coursed beneath that swarthy skin and burned 
in the black eyes opposite his own. He saw 
in this mulatto what he himself might have 
become had not the safeguards of parental 
restraint and public opinion been thrown 
around him. 

" Free to do what ? " replied the mulatto. 
" Free in name, but despised and scorned and 
set aside by the people to whose race I belong 
far more than to my mother's." 

" There are schools," said the sheriff. " You 
have been to school." He had noticed that 
the mulatto spoke more eloquently and used 
better language than most Branson County 
people. 

" I have been to school, and dreamed when 
I went that it would work some marvelous 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 87 

change in my condition. But what did I 
learn ? I learned to feel that no degree of 
learning or wisdom will change the color of 
my skin and that I shall always wear what in 
my own country is a badge of degradation. 
When I think about it seriously I do not care 
particularly for such a life. It is the animal 
in me, not the man, that flees the gallows. 
I owe you nothing," he went on, " and expect 
nothing of you ; and it would be no more 
than justice if I should avenge upon you my 
mother's wrongs and my own. But still I 
hate to shoot you ; I have never yet taken 
human life — for I did not kill the old cap- 
tain. Will you promise to give no alarm and 
make no attempt to capture me until morn- 
ing, if I do not shoot? " 

So absorbed were the two men in their col- 
loquy and their own tumultuous thoughts 
that neither of them had heard the door below 
move upon its hinges. Neither of them had 
heard a light step come stealthily up the stairs, 
nor seen a slender form creep along the dark- 
ening passage toward the mulatto. 

The sheriff hesitated. The struggle be- 
tween his love of life and his sense of duty 
was a terrific one. It may seem strange that 



88 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

a man who could sell bis own child into slav- 
ery should hesitate at such a moment, when 
his life was trembling in the balance. But 
the baleful influence of human slavery poi- 
soned the very fountains of life, and created 
new standards of right. The sheriff was con- 
scientious ; his conscience had merely been 
warped by his environment. Let no one ask 
what his answer would have been ; he was 
spared the necessity of a decision. 

"Stop," said the mulatto, "you need not 
promise. I could not trust you if you did. 
It is your life for mine ; there is but one safe 
way for me ; you must die." 

He raised his arm to fire, when there was 
a flash — a report from the passage behind 
him. His arm fell heavily at his side, and 
the pistol dropped at his feet. 

The sheriff recovered first from his sur- 
prise, and throwing open the door secured the 
fallen weapon. Then seizing the prisoner he 
thrust him into the cell and locked the door 
upon him ; after which he turned to Polly, 
who leaned half -fainting against the wall, her 
hands clasped over her heart. 

" Oh, father, I was just in time ! " she cried 
hysterically, and, wildly sobbing, threw herself 
into her father's arms. 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 89 

" I watched until they all went away/' she 
said. " I heard the shot from the woods and 
I saw you shoot. Then when you did not 
come out I feared something had happened, 
that perhaps you had been wounded. I got 
out the other pistol and ran over here. When 
I found the door open, I knew something was 
wrong, and when I heard voices I crept up- 
stairs, and reached the top just in time to 
hear him say he would kill you. Oh, it was 
a narrow escape ! " 

When she had grown somewhat calmer, the 
sheriff left her standing there and went back 
into the cell. The prisoner's arm was bleed- 
ing from a flesh wound. His bravado had 
given place to a stony apathy. There was 
no sign in his face of fear or disappointment 
or feeling of any kind. The sheriff sent 
Polly to the house for cloth, and bound up 
the prisoner's wound with a rude skill ac- 
quired during his army life. 

" I '11 have a doctor come and dress the 
wound in the morning," he said to the pris- 
oner. " It will do very well until then, if 
you will keep quiet. If the doctor asks you 
how the wound was caused, you can say that 
you were struck by the bullet fired from the 



90 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

woods. It would do you no good to have it 
known that you were shot while attempting 
to escape.' ' 

The prisoner uttered no word of thanks or 
apology, but sat in sullen silence. When the 
wounded arm had been bandaged, Polly and 
her father returned to the house. 

The sheriff was in an unusually thoughtful 
mood that evening. He put salt in his coffee 
at supper, and poured vinegar over his pan- 
cakes. To many of Polly's questions he re- 
turned random answers. When he had gone 
to bed he lay awake for several hours. 

In the silent watches of the night, when he 
was alone with God, there came into his mind 
a flood of unaccustomed thoughts. An hour 
or two before, standing face to face with 
death, he had experienced a sensation similar 
to that which drowning men are said to feel 
— a kind of clarifying of the moral faculty, 
in which the veil of the flesh, with its obscur- 
ing passions and prejudices, is pushed aside 
for a moment, and all the acts of one's life 
stand out, in the clear light of truth, in their 
correct proportions and relations, — a state of 
mind in which one sees himself as God may 
be supposed to see him. In the reaction 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 91 

following his rescue, this feeling had given 
place for a time to far different emotions. 
But now, in the silence of midnight, some- 
thing of this clearness of spirit returned to 
the sheriff. He saw that he had owed some 
duty to this son of his, — that neither law nor 
custom could destroy a responsibility inherent 
in the nature of mankind. He could not 
thus, in the eyes of God at least, shake off the 
consequences of his sin. Had he never sinned, 
this wayward spirit would never have come 
back from the vanished past to haunt him. 
As these thoughts came, his anger against 
the mulatto died away, and in its place there 
sprang up a great pity. The hand of paren- 
tal authority might have restrained the pas- 
sions he had seen burning in the prisoner's 
eyes when the desperate man spoke the words 
which had seemed to doom his father to death. 
The sheriff felt that he might have saved this 
fiery spirit from the slough of slavery ; that 
he might have sent him to the free North, 
and given him there, or in some other land, 
an opportunity to turn to usefulness and honor- 
able pursuits the talents that had run to crime, 
perhaps to madness ; he might, still less, have 
given this son of his the poor simulacrum of 



92 THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 

liberty which men of his caste could possess 
in a slave-holding community ; or least of all, 
but still something, he might have kept the 
boy on the plantation, where the burdens of 
slavery would have fallen lightly upon him. 

The sheriff recalled his own youth. He 
had inherited an honored name to keep un- 
tarnished ; he had had a future to make ; the 
picture of a fair young bride had beckoned 
him on to happiness. The poor wretch now 
stretched upon a pallet of straw between the 
brick walls of the jail had had none of these 
things, — no name, no father, no mother — 
in the true meaning of motherhood, — and un- 
til the past few years no possible future, and 
then one vague and shadowy in its outline, 
and dependent for form and substance upon 
the slow solution of a problem in which there 
were many unknown quantities. 

From what he might have done to what he 
might yet do was an easy transition for the 
awakened conscience of the sheriff. It oc- 
curred to him, purely as a hypothesis, that he 
might permit his prisoner to escape ; but his 
oath of office, his duty as sheriff, stood in the 
way of such a course, and the sheriff dis- 
missed the idea from his mind. He could, 
however, investigate the circumstances of the 



THE SHERIFF'S CHILDREN 93 

murder, and move Heaven and earth to discover 
the real criminal, for he no longer doubted the 
prisoner's innocence ; he could employ counsel 
for the accused, and perhaps influence public 
opinion in his favor. An acquittal once 
secured, some plan could be devised by which 
the sheriff might in some degree atone for his 
crime against this son of his — against society 
— against God. 

When the sheriff had reached this con- 
clusion he fell into an unquiet slumber, from 
which he awoke late the next morning. 

He went over to the jail before breakfast 
and found the prisoner lying on his pallet, 
his face turned to the wall ; he did not move 
when the sheriff rattled the door. 

" Good-morning," said the latter, in a tone 
intended to waken the prisoner. 

There was no response. The sheriff looked 
more keenly at the recumbent figure ; there 
was an unnatural rigidity about its attitude. 

He hastily unlocked the door and, entering 
the cell, bent over the prostrate form. There 
was no sound of breathing ; he turned the 
body over — it was cold and stiff. The pris- 
oner had torn the bandage from his wound 
and bled to death during the night. He had 
evidently been dead several hours. 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 



" What our country needs most in its treat- 
ment of the race problem/' observed Mr. 
Cicero Clayton at one of the monthly meetings 
of the Blue Vein Society, of which he was a 
prominent member, " is a clearer conception 
of the brotherhood of man." 

The same sentiment in much the same 
words had often fallen from Mr. Clayton's 
lips, — so often, in fact, that the younger 
members of the society sometimes spoke of 
him — among themselves of course — as 
" Brotherhood Clayton." The sobriquet 
derived its point from the application he 
made of the principle involved in this oft- 
repeated proposition. 

The fundamental article of Mr. Clayton's 
social creed was that he himself was not a 
negro. 

" I know," he would say, " that the white 
people lump us all together as negroes, and 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 95 

condemn us all to the same social ostracism. 
But I don't accept this classification, for my 
part, and I imagine that, as the chief party 
in interest, I have a right to my opinion. 
People who belong by half or more of their 
blood to the most virile and progressive race 
of modern times have as much right to call 
themselves white as others have to call them 
negroes." 

Mr. Clayton spoke warmly, for he was well 
informed, and had thought much upon the 
subject ; too much, indeed, for he had not 
been able to escape entirely the tendency of 
too much concentration upon one subject to 
make even the clearest minds morbid. 

" Of course we can't enforce our claims, or 
protect ourselves from being robbed of our 
birthright ; but we can at least have princi- 
ples, and try to live up to them the best we 
can. If we are not accepted as white, we can 
at any rate make it clear that we object to 
being called black. Our protest cannot fail 
in time to impress itself upon the better class 
of white people ; for the Anglo-Saxon race 
loves justice, and will eventually do it, where 
it does not conflict with their own interests." 

Whether or not the fact that Mr. Clayton 



96 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

meant no sarcasm, and was conscious of no 
inconsistency in this eulogy, tended to estab- 
lish the racial identity he claimed may safely 
be left to the discerning reader. 

In living up to his creed Mr. Clayton de- 
clined to associate to any considerable extent 
with black people. This was sometimes a 
little inconvenient, and occasionally involved 
a sacrifice of some pleasure for himself and 
his family, because they would not attend en- 
tertainments where many black people were 
likely to be present. But they had a social 
refuge in a little society of people like them- 
selves ; they attended, too, a church, of which 
nearly all the members were white, and they 
were connected with a number of the religious 
and benevolent associations open to all good 
citizens, where they came into contact with 
the better class of white people, and were 
treated, in their capacity of members, with 
a courtesy and consideration scarcely differ- 
ent from that accorded to other citizens. 

Mr. Clayton's racial theory was not only 
logical enough, but was in his own case backed 
up by substantial arguments. He had begun 
life with a small patrimony, and had invested 
his money in a restaurant, which by careful 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 97 

and judicious attention had grown from a 
cheap eating-house into the most popular and 
successful confectionery and catering estab- 
lishment in Groveland. His business occupied 
a double store on Oakwood Avenue. He 
owned houses and lots, and stocks and bonds, 
had good credit at the banks, and lived in a 
style befitting his income and business stand- 
ing. In person he was of olive complexion, 
with slightly curly hair. His features ap- 
proached the Cuban or Latin- American type 
rather than the familiar broad characteris- 
tics of the mulatto, this suggestion of some- 
thing foreign being heightened by a Vandyke 
beard and a carefully waxed and pointed 
mustache. When he walked to church on 
Sunday mornings with his daughter Alice, 
they were a couple of such striking appearance 
as surely to attract attention. 

Miss Alice Clayton was queen of her social 
set. She was young, she was handsome. She 
was nearly white; she frankly confessed her 
sorrow that she was not entirely so. She was 
accomplished and amiable, dressed in good 
taste, and had for her father by all odds the 
richest colored man — the term is used with 
apologies to Mr. Clayton, explaining that it 



98 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

does not necessarily mean a negro — in Grove- 
land. So pronounced was her superiority that 
really she had but one social rival worthy of 
the name, — Miss Lura Watkins, whose fa- 
ther kept a prosperous livery stable and lived 
in almost as good style as the Claytons. Miss 
Watkins, while good-looking enough, was not 
so young nor quite so white as Miss Clayton. 
She was popular, however, among their mu- 
tual acquaintances, and there was a good- 
natured race between the two as to which 
should make the first and best marriage. 

Marriages among Miss Clayton's set were 
serious affairs. Of course marriage is always 
a serious matter, whether it be a success or a 
failure, and there are those who believe that 
any marriage is better than no marriage. But 
among Miss Clayton's friends and associates 
matrimony took on an added seriousness be- 
cause of the very narrow limits within which 
it could take place. Miss Clayton and her 
friends, by reason of their assumed superiority 
to black people, or perhaps as much by rea- 
son of a somewhat morbid shrinking from the 
curiosity manifested toward married people of 
strongly contrasting colors, would not marry 
black men, and except in rare instances white 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 99 

men would not marry them. They were 
therefore restricted for a choice to the young 
men of their own complexion. But these, 
unfortunately for the girls, had a wider choice. 
In any State where the laws permit freedom 
of the marriage contract, a man, by virtue of 
his sex, can find a wife of whatever complexion 
he prefers ; of course he must not always ask 
too much in other respects, for most women 
like to better their social position when they 
marry. To the number thus lost by " going 
on the other side," as the phrase went, add 
the worthless contingent whom no self-respect- 
ing woman would marry, and the choice was 
still further restricted ; so that it had become 
fashionable, when the supply of eligible men 
ran short, for those of Miss Clayton's set who 
could afford it to go traveling, ostensibly for 
pleasure, but with the serious hope that they 
might meet their fate away from home. 

Miss Clayton had perhaps a larger option 
than any of her associates. Among such men 
as there were she could have taken her choice. 
Her beauty, her position, her accomplishments, 
her father's wealth, all made her eminently 
desirable. But, on the other hand, the same 
things rendered her more difficult to reach, and 



"100 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

harder to please. To get access to her heart, 
too, it was necessary to run the gauntlet of 
her parents, which, until she had reached the 
age of twenty-three, no one had succeeded in 
doing safely. Many had called, but none had 
been chosen. 

There was, however, one spot left un- 
guarded, and through it Cupid, a veteran 
sharpshooter, sent a dart. Mr. Clayton had 
taken into his service and into his household 
a poor relation, a sort of cousin several times 
removed. This boy — his name was Jack — 
had gone into Mr. Clayton's service at a very 
youthful age, — twelve or thirteen. He had 
helped about the housework, washed the 
dishes, swept the floors, taken care of the 
lawn and the stable for three or four years, 
while he attended school. His cousin had 
then taken him into the store, where he had 
swept the floor, washed the windows, and done 
a class of work that kept fully impressed upon 
him the fact that he was a poor dependent. 
Nevertheless he was a cheerful lad, who took 
what he could get and was properly grateful, 
but always meant to get more. By sheer force 
of industry and affability and shrewdness, he 
forced his employer to promote him in time 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 101 

to a position of recognized authority in the 
establishment. Any one outside of the family 
would have perceived in him a very suitable 
husband for Miss Clayton ; he was of about 
the same age, or a year or two older, was as 
fair of complexion as she, when she was not 
powdered, and was passably good-looking, 
with a bearing of which the natural manli- 
ness had been no more warped than his train- 
ing and racial status had rendered inevitable ; 
for he had early learned the law of growth, 
that to bend is better than to break. He 
was sometimes sent to accompany Miss Clay- 
ton to places in the evening, when she had no 
other escort, and it is quite likely that she 
discovered his good points before her parents 
did. That they should in time perceive them 
was inevitable. But even then, so accustomed 
were they to looking down upon the object of 
their former bounty, that they only spoke of 
the matter jocularly. 

" Well, Alice," her father would say in his 
bluff way, " you '11 not be absolutely obliged 
to die an old maid. If we can't find anything 
better for you, there 's always Jack. As long 
as he does n't take to some other girl, you can 
fall back on him as a last chance. He 'd be 
glad to take you to get into the business." 



102 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

Miss Alice had considered the joke a very 
poor one when first made, but by occasional 
repetition she became somewhat familiar with 
it. In time it got around to Jack himself, to 
whom it seemed no joke at all. He had long 
considered it a consummation devoutly to be 
wished, and when he became aware that the 
possibility of such a match had occurred to the 
other parties in interest, he made up his mind 
that the idea should in due course of time 
become an accomplished fact. He had even 
suggested as much to Alice, in a casual way, 
to feel his ground ; and while she had treated 
the matter lightly, he was not without hope 
that she had been impressed by the suggestion. 
Before he had had time, however, to follow 
up this lead, Miss Clayton, in the spring of 
187-, went away on a visit to Washington. 

The occasion of her visit was a presidential 
inauguration. The new President owed his 
nomination mainly to the votes of the South- 
ern delegates in the convention, and was be- 
lieved to be correspondingly well disposed to 
the race from which the Southern delegates 
were for the most part recruited. Friends 
of rival and unsuccessful candidates for the 
nomination had more than hinted that the 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 103 

Southern delegates were very substantially 
rewarded for their support at the time when 
it was given ; whether this was true or not 
the parties concerned know best. At any rate 
the colored politicians did not see it in that 
light, for they were gathered from near and 
far to press their claims for recognition and 
patronage. On the evening following the 
White House inaugural ball, the colored peo- 
ple of Washington gave an "inaugural" ball 
at a large public hall. It was under the man-, 
agement of their leading citizens, among them 
several high officials holding over from the last 
administration, and a number of professional 
and business men. This ball was the most 
noteworthy social event that colored circles up 
to that time had ever known. There were 
many visitors from various parts of the coun- 
try. Miss Clayton attended the ball, the 
honors of which she carried away easily. She 
danced with several partners, and was intro- 
duced to innumerable people whom she had 
never seen before, and whom she hardly ex- 
pected ever to meet again. She went away 
from the ball, at four o'clock in the morning, 
in a glow of triumph, and with a confused 
impression of senators and representatives and 



104 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

lawyers and doctors of all shades, who had 
sought an introduction, led her through the 
dance, and overwhelmed her with compliments. 
She returned home the next day but one, after 
the most delightful week of her life. 



II 

One afternoon, about three weeks after 
her return from Washington, Alice received 
a letter through the mail. The envelope 
bore the words " House of Representatives ' 
printed in one corner, and in the opposite 
corner, in a bold running hand, a Con- 
gressman's frank, " Hamilton M. Brown, 
M. C. " The letter read as follows : — 

House of Representatives, 
Washington, D. C, March 30, 187-. 

Miss Alice Clayton, Grovel and. 

Dear Friend (if I may be permitted to call 
you so after so brief an acquaintance), — I 
remember with sincerest pleasure our recent 
meeting at the inaugural ball, and the sen- 
sation created by your beauty, your amiable 
manners, and your graceful dancing. Time 
has so strengthened the impression I then 
received, that I should have felt inconsolable 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 105 

had I thought it impossible ever to again 
behold the charms which had brightened the 
occasion of our meeting and eclipsed by their 
brilliancy the leading belles of the capital. 
I had hoped, however, to have the pleasure of 
meeting you again, and circumstances have 
fortunately placed it in my power to do so at 
an early date. You have doubtless learned 
that the contest over the election in the Sixth 
Congressional District of South Carolina has 
been decided in my favor, and that I now 
have the honor of representing my native 
State at the national capital. I have just 
been appointed a member of a special com- 
mittee to visit and inspect the Sault River and 
the Straits of Mackinac, with reference to 
the needs of lake navigation. I have made 
arrangements to start a week ahead of the 
other members of the committee, whom I am 
to meet in Detroit on the 20th. I shall leave 
here on the 2d, and will arrive in Groveland 
on the 3d, by the 7.30 evening express. I 
shall remain in Groveland several days, in the 
course of which I shall be pleased to call, and 
renew the acquaintance so auspiciously begun 
in Washington, which it is my fondest hope 
may ripen into a warmer friendship. 



106 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

If you do not regard my visit as presump- 
tuous, and do not write me in the mean while 
forbidding it, I shall do myself the pleasure 
of waiting on you the morning after my arri- 
val in Groveland. 

With renewed expressions of my sincere 
admiration and profound esteem, I remain, 
Sincerely yours, 

Hamilton M. Brown, M. C. 

To Alice, and especially to her mother, 
this bold and flowery letter had very nearly 
the force of a formal declaration. They read 
it over again and again, and spent most of 
the afternoon discussing it. There were few 
young men in Groveland eligible as husbands 
for so superior a person as Alice Clayton, and 
an addition to the number would be very 
acceptable. But the mere fact of his being 
a Congressman was not sufficient to qualify 
him ; there were other considerations. 

" I've never heard of this Honorable Hamil- 
ton M. Brown," said Mr. Clayton. The letter 
had been laid before him at the supper-table. 
" It 's strange, Alice, that you have n't said 
anything about him before. You must have 
met lots of swell folks not to recollect a Con- 
gressman." 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 107 

" But he was n't a Congressman then," an- 
swered Alice ; " he was only a claimant. I 
remember Senator Bruce, and Mr. Douglass ; 
but there were so many doctors and lawyers 
and politicians that I could n't keep track of 
them all. Still I have a faint impression of 
a Mr. Brown who danced with me." 

She went into the parlor and brought out 
the dancing programme she had used at the 
Washington ball. She had decorated it with 
a bow of blue ribbon and preserved it as 
a souvenir of her visit. 

" Yes," she said, after examining it, " I 
must have danced with him. Here are the 
initials— <H. M. B.'" 

" What color is he ? " asked Mr. Clayton, 
as he plied his knife and fork. 

u I have a notion that he was rather 
dark — darker than any one I had ever 
danced with before." 

" Why did you dance with him ? " asked 
her father. " You were n't obliged to go 
back on your principles because you were 
away from home." 

" Well, father, ' when you 're in Rome ' 
— you know the rest. Mrs. Clearweather 
introduced me to several dark men, to him 



108 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

among others. They were her friends, and 
common decency required me to be courteous." 

" If this man is black, we don't want to 
encourage him. If he 's the right sort, we '11 
invite him to the house." 

" And make him feel at home," added 
Mrs. Clayton, on hospitable thoughts intent. 

" We must ask Sadler about him to-mor- 
row," said Mr. Clayton, when he had drunk 
his coffee and lighted his cigar. " If he 's 
the right man he shall have cause to remem- 
ber his visit to Groveland. We '11 show him 
that Washington is not the only town on 
earth." 

The uncertainty of the family with regard 
to Mr. Brown was soon removed. Mr. Solo- 
mon Sadler, who was supposed to know every- 
thing worth knowing concerning the colored 
race, and everybody of importance connected 
with it, dropped in after supper to make an 
evening call. Sadler was familiar with the 
history of every man of negro ancestry who 
had distinguished himself in any walk of life. 
He could give the pedigree of Alexander 
Pushkin, the titles of scores of Dumas' s nov- 
els (even Sadler had not time to learn them 
all), and could recite the whole of Wendell 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 109 

Phillips's lecture on Toussaint l'Ouverture. 
He claimed a personal acquaintance with Mr. 
Frederick Douglass, and had been often in 
Washington, where he was well known and 
well received in good colored society. 

" Let me see/' he said reflectively, when 
asked for information about the Honorable 
Hamilton M. Brown. " Yes, I think I know 
him. He studied at Oberlin just after the 
war. He was about leaving there when I 
entered. There were two H. M. Browns 
there — a Hamilton M. Brown and a Henry 
M. Brown. One was stout and dark and the 
other was slim and quite light; you could 
scarcely tell him from a dark white man. 
They used to call them ( light Brown ' and 
6 dark Brown.' I did n't know either of them 
except by sight, for they were there only a 
few weeks after I went in. As I remember 
them, Hamilton was the fair one — a very 
good-looking, gentlemanly fellow, and, as I 
heard, a good student and a fine speaker." 

" Do you remember what kind of hair he 
had ? " asked Mr. Clayton. 

" Very good indeed ; straight, as I remem- 
ber it. He looked something like a Spaniard 
or a Portuguese*" 



110 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

" Now that you describe him/' said Alice, 
" I remember quite well dancing with such a 
gentleman ; and I 'm wrong about my ' H. M. 
B.' The dark man must have been some one 
else ; there are two others on my card that I 
can't remember distinctly, and he was prob- 
ably one of those." 

" I guess he 's all right, Alice," said her 
father when Sadler had gone away. " He 
evidently means business, and we must treat 
him white. Of course he must stay with us ; 
there are no hotels in Groveland while he is 
here. Let's see — he'll be here in three 
days. That is n't very long, but I guess we 
can get ready. I '11 write a letter this after- 
noon — or you write it, and invite him to the 
house, and say I '11 meet him at the depot. 
And you may have carte blanche for making 
the preparations." 

" We must have some people to meet him." 

" Certainly ; a reception is the proper thing. 
Sit down immediately and write the letter 
and I '11 mail it first thing in the morning, so 
he '11 get it before he has time to make other 
arrangements. And you and your mother 
put your heads together and make out a 
list of guests, and I '11 have the invitations 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 111 

. printed to-morrow. We will show the darkeys 
of Groveland how to entertain a Congress- 
man." 

It will be noted that in moments of abstrac- 
tion or excitement Mr. Clayton sometimes 
relapsed into forms of speech not entirely 
consistent with his principles. But some 
allowance must be made for his atmosphere ; 
he could no more escape from it than the 
leopard can change his spots, or the — In 
deference to Mr. Clayton's feelings the quo- 
tation will be left incomplete. 

Alice wrote the letter on the spot and it 
was duly mailed, and sped on its winged way 
to Washington. 

The preparations for the reception were 
made as thoroughly and elaborately as possible 
on so short a notice. The invitations were 
issued ; the house was cleaned from attic to 
cellar; an orchestra was engaged for the 
evening; elaborate floral decorations were 
planned and the flowers ordered. Even the 
refreshments, which ordinarily, in the house- 
hold of a caterer, would be mere matter of 
familiar detail, became a subject of serious 
consultation and study. 

The approaching event was a matter of 



112 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

very much interest to the fortunate ones who 
were honored with invitations, and this for 
several reasons. They were anxious to meet 
this sole representative of their race in the 
— th Congress, and as he was not one of the 
old-line colored leaders, but a new star risen 
on the political horizon, there was a special 
curiosity to see who he was and what he 
looked like. Moreover, the Claytons did not 
often entertain a large company, but when 
they did, it was on a scale commensurate with 
their means and position, and to be present 
on such an occasion was a thing to remember 
and to talk about. And, most important 
consideration of all, some remarks dropped 
by members of the Clayton family had given 
rise to the rumor that the Congressman was 
seeking a wife. This invested his visit with 
a romantic interest, and gave the reception a 
practical value ; for there were other marriage- 
able girls besides Miss Clayton, and if one 
was left another might be taken. 



Ill 

On the evening of April 3d, at fifteen 
minutes of six o'clock, Mr. Clayton, accom- 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 113 

parried by Jack, entered the livery carriage 
waiting at his gate and ordered the coachman 
to drive to the Union Depot. He had taken 
Jack along, partly for company, and partly 
that Jack might relieve the Congressman of 
any trouble about his baggage, and make 
himself useful in case of emergency. Jack 
was willing enough to go, for he had foreseen 
in the visitor a rival for Alice's hand, — in- 
deed he had heard more or less of the subject 
for several days, — and was glad to make a 
reconnaissance before the enemy arrived upon 
the field of battle. He had made — at least 
he had thought so — considerable progress 
with Alice during the three weeks since her 
return from Washington, and once or twice 
Alice had been perilously near the tender 
stage. This visit had disturbed the situation 
and threatened to ruin his chances ; but he 
did not mean to give up without a struggle. 

Arrived at the main entrance, Mr. Clayton 
directed the carriage to wait, and entered the 
station with Jack. The Union Depot at 
Groveland was an immense oblong structure, 
covering a dozen parallel tracks and furnishing 
terminal passenger facilities for half a dozen 
railroads. The tracks ran east and west, and 



114 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

the depot was entered from the south, at 
about the middle of the building. On either 
side of the entrance, the waiting-rooms, re- 
freshment rooms, baggage and express depart- 
ments, and other administrative offices, ex- 
tended in a row for the entire length of the 
building ; and beyond them and parallel with 
them stretched a long open space, separated 
from the tracks by an iron fence or grille. 
There were two entrance gates in the fence, 
at which tickets must be shown before access 
could be had to trains, and two other gates, 
by which arriving passengers came out. 

Mr. Clayton looked at the blackboard on 
the wall underneath the station clock, and 
observed that the 7.30 train from Washing- 
ton was five minutes late. Accompanied by 
Jack he walked up and down the platform 
until the train, with the usual accompaniment 
of panting steam and clanging bell and rum- 
bling trucks, pulled into the station, and drew 
up on the third or fourth track from the iron 
railing. Mr. Clayton stationed himself at the 
gate nearest the rear end of the train, reason- 
ing that the Congressman would ride in a par- 
lor car, and would naturally come out by the 
gate nearest the point at which he left the 
train. 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 115 

" You 'd better go and stand by the other 
gate, Jack/' he said to his companion, " and 
stop him if he goes out that way." 

The train was well filled and a stream of 
passengers poured through. Mr. Clayton 
scanned the crowd carefully as they ap- 
proached the gate, and scrutinized each pas- 
senger as he came through, without seeing 
any one that met the description of Congress- 
man Brown, as given by Sadler, or any one 
that could in his opinion be the gentleman 
for whom he was looking. When the last 
one had passed through he was left to the 
conclusion that his expected guest had gone 
out by the other gate. Mr. Clayton hastened 
thither. 

"Didn't he come out this way, Jack?" he 
asked. 

" No, sir," replied the young man, " I 
have n't seen him." 

" That 's strange," mused Mr. Clayton, 
somewhat anxiously. " He would hardly fail 
to come without giving us notice. Surely we 
must have missed him. We 'd better look 
around a little. You go that way and I '11 
go this." 

Mr. Clayton turnepl and walked several 



116 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

rods along the platform to the men's waiting- 
room, and standing near the door glanced 
around to see if he could find the object of 
his search. The only colored person in the 
room was a stout and very black man, wear- 
ing a broadcloth suit and a silk hat, and 
seated a short distance from the door. On 
the seat by his side stood a couple of valises. 
On one of them, the one nearest him, on 
which his arm rested, was written, in white 
letters, plainly legible, — 

" H. M. Brown, M. C. 

" Washington, D. C." 

Mr. Clayton's feelings at this discovery can 
better be imagined than described. He hastily 
left the waiting-room, before the black gentle- 
man, who was looking the other way, was 
even aware of his presence, and, walking 
rapidly up and down the platform, communed 
with himself upon what course of action the 
situation demanded. He had invited to his 
house, had come down to meet, had made 
elaborate preparations to entertain on the fol- 
lowing evening, a light-colored man, — a white 
man by his theory, an acceptable guest, a 
possible husband for his daughter, an avowed 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 117 

suitor for her hand. If the Congressman had 
turned out to be brown, even dark brown, 
with fairly good hair, though he might not 
have desired him as a son-in-law, vet he 
could have welcomed him as a guest. But 
even this softening of the blow was denied 
him, for the man in the waiting-room was 
palpably, aggressively black, with pronounced 
African features and woolly hair, without 
apparently a single drop of redeeming white 
blood. Could he, in the face of his well- 
known principles, his lifelong rule of conduct, 
take this negro into his home and introduce 
him to his friends? Could he subject his 
wife and daughter to the rude shock of such a 
disappointment ? It would be bad enough 
for them to learn of the ghastly mistake, but 
to have him in the house would be twisting 
the arrow in the wound. 

Mr. Clayton had the instincts of a gentleman, 
and realized the delicacy of the situation. But 
to get out of his difficulty without wounding 
the feelings of the Congressman required not 
only diplomacy but dispatch. Whatever he 
did must be done promptly ; for if he waited 
many minutes the Congressman would prob- 
ably take a carriage and be driven to Mr. 
Clayton's residence. 



118 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

A ray of hope came for a moment to illu- 
mine the gloom of the situation. Perhaps 
the black man was merely sitting there, and 
not the owner of the valise ! For there were 
two valises, one on each side of the sivpposed 
Congressman. For obvious reasons he did 
not care to make the inquiry himself, so he 
looked around for his companion, who came 
up a moment later. 

" Jack," he exclaimed excitedly, " I 'm 
afraid we 're in the worst kind of a hole, un- 
less there 's some mistake ! Run down to the 
men's waiting-room and you '11 see a man and 
a valise, and you '11 understand what I mean. 
Ask that darkey if he is the Honorable Mr. 
Brown, Congressman from South Carolina. 
If he says yes, come back right away and let 
me know, without giving him time to ask any 
questions, and put your wits to work to help 
me out of the scrape." 

" I wonder what 's the matter?" said Jack 
to himself, but did as he was told. In a 
moment he came running back. 

" Yes, sir," he announced ; " he says he 's 
the man." 

" Jack," said Mr. Clayton desperately, " if 
you want to show your appreciation of what 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 119 

I 've done for you, you must suggest some 
way out of this. I 'd never dare to take that 
negro to my house, and yet I 'm obliged to 
treat him like a gentleman." 

Jack's eyes had worn a somewhat reflective 
look since he had gone to make the inquiry. 
Suddenly his face brightened with intelli- 
gence, and then, as a newsboy ran into the 
station calling his wares, hardened into deter- 
mination. 

" Clarion, special extry 'dition ! All about 
de epidemic er dipt'eria ! " clamored the news- 
boy with shrill childish treble, as he made his 
way toward the waiting-room. Jack darted 
after him, and saw the man to whom he had 
spoken buy a paper. He ran back to his em- 
ployer, and dragged him over toward the 
ticket-seller's window. 

" I have it, sir ! ' he exclaimed, seizing a 
telegraph blank and writing rapidly, and 
reading aloud as he wrote. " How 's this for 
a way out? " — 

"Dear Sir, — I write you this note here 
in the depot to inform you of an unfortunate 
event which has interfered with my plans and 
those of my family for your entertainment 



120 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

while in Groveland. Yesterday my daughter 
Alice complained of a sore throat, which by 
this afternoon had developed into a case of 
malignant diphtheria. In consequence our 
house has been quarantined ; and while I have 
felt myself obliged to come down to the 
depot, I do not feel that I ought to expose 
you to the possibility of infection, and I 
therefore send you this by another hand. 
The bearer will conduct you to a carriage 
which I have ordered placed at your service, 
and unless you should prefer some other 
hotel, you will be driven to the Forest Hill 
House, where I beg you will consider yourself 
my guest during your stay in the city, and 
make the fullest use of every convenience it 
may offer. From present indications I fear 
no one of our family will be able to see you, 
which we shall regret beyond expression, as 
we have made elaborate arrangements for 
your entertainment. I still hope, however, 
that you may enjoy your visit, as there are 
many places of interest in the city, and many 
friends will doubtless be glad to make your 
acquaintance. 

u With assurances of my profound regret, 
I am Sincerely yours, 

" Cicero Clayton." 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 121 

" Splendid ! " cried Mr. Clayton. " You 've 
helped me out of a horrible scrape. Now, go 
and take him to the hotel and see him com- 
fortably located, and tell them to charge the 
bill to me." 

" I suspect, sir/' suggested Jack, " that 
I 'd better not go up to the house, and you '11 
have to stay in yourself for a day or two, 
to keep up appearances. I '11 sleep on the 
lounge at the store, and we can talk business 
over the telephone." 

" All right, Jack, we '11 arrange the details 
later. But for Heaven's sake get him started, 
or he '11 be calling a hack to drive up to the 
house. I '11 go home on a street car." 

" So far so good," sighed Mr. Clayton to 
himself as he escaped from the station. " Jack 
is a deuced clever fellow, and I '11 have to do 
something more for him. But the tug-of- 
war is yet to come. I 've got to bribe a doc- 
tor, shut up the house for a day or two, and 
have all the ill-humor of two disappointed 
women to endure until this negro leaves town. 
Well, I 'm sure my wife and Alice will back 
me up at any cost. No sacrifice is too great 
to escape having to entertain him ; of course 
I have no prejudice against his color, — he 



122 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

can't help that, — but it is the principle of 
the thing. If we received him it would be a 
concession fatal to all my views and theories. 
And I am really doing him a kindness, for 
I 'm sure that all the world could not make 
Alice and her mother treat him with anything 
but cold politeness. It '11 be a great mortifi- 
cation to Alice, but I don't see how else I 
could have got out of it." 

He boarded the first car that left the depot, 
and soon reached home. The house was 
lighted up, and through the lace curtains of 
the parlor windows he could see his wife and 
daughter, elegantly dressed, waiting to receive 
their distinguished visitor. He rang the bell 
impatiently, and a servant opened the door. 

" The gentleman did n't come ? " asked the 
maid. 

" No," he said as he hung up his hat. 
This brought the ladies to the door. 

" He did n't come ? " they exclaimed. 
" What 's the matter ? " 

" I '11 tell you," he said. " Mary," this to 
the servant, a white girl, who stood in open- 
eyed curiosity, " we shan't need you any more 
to-night." 

Then he went into the parlor, and, closing 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 123 

the door, told his story. When he reached the 
point where he had discovered the color of 
the honorable Mr. Brown, Miss Clayton caught 
her breath, and was on the verge of collapse. 

" That nigger," said Mrs. Clayton indig- 
nantly, " can never set foot in this house. 
But what did you do with him ? " 

Mr. Clayton quickly unfolded his plan, and 
described the disposition he had made of the 
Congressman. 

" It 's an awful shame," said Mrs. Clayton. 
" Just think of the trouble and expense we 
have gone to ! And poor Alice '11 never get 
over it, for everybody knows he came to see 
her and that he 's smitten with her. But 
you 've done just right ; we never would have 
been able to hold up our heads again if we 
had introduced a black man, even a Congress- 
man, to the people that are invited here to- 
morrow night, as a sweetheart of Alice. 
Why, she wouldn't marry him if he was 
President of the United States and plated 
with gold an inch thick. The very idea ! " 

"Well," said Mr. Clayton, "then we've 
got to act quick. Alice must wrap up her 
throat — by the way, Alice, how is your 
throat ? " 



124 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

"It's sore," sobbed Alice, who had been 
in tears almost from her father's return, " and 
I don't care if I do have diphtheria and die, 
no, I don't ! " and she wept on. 

" Wrap up your throat and go to bed, and 
I '11 go over to Doctor Pillsbury's and get a 
diphtheria card to nail up on the house. In 
the morning, first thing, we '11 have to write 
notes recalling the invitations for to-morrow 
evening, and have them delivered by mes- 
senger boys. We were fools for not finding 
out all about this man from some one who 
knew, before we invited him here. Sadler 
don't know more than half he thinks he does, 
anyway. And we '11 have to do this thing 
thoroughly, or our motives will be miscon- 
strued, and people will say we are prejudiced 
and all that, when it is only a matter of prin- 
ciple with us." 

The programme outlined above was carried 
out to the letter. The invitations were re- 
called, to the great disappointment of the 
invited guests. The family physician called 
several times during the day. Alice remained 
in bed, and the maid left without notice, in 
such a hurry that she forgot to take her best 
clothes. 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 125 

Mr. Clayton himself remained at home. 
He had a telephone in the house, and was 
therefore in easy communication with his 
office, so that the business did not suffer ma- 
terially by reason of his absence from the 
store. About ten o'clock in the morning a 
note came up from the hotel, expressing Mr. 
Brown's regrets and sympathy. Toward noon 
Mr. Clayton picked up the morning paper, 
which he had not theretofore had time to read, 
and was glancing over it casually, when his 
eye fell upon a column headed "A Colored Con- 
gressman." He read the article with astonish- 
ment that rapidly turned to chagrin and 
dismay. It was an interview describing the 
Congressman as a tall and shapely man, about 
thirty-five years old, with an olive complexion 
not noticeably darker than many a white 
man's, straight hair, and eyes as black as sloes. 

" The bearing of this son of South Carolina 
reveals the polished manners of the Southern 
gentleman, and neither from his appearance 
nor his conversation would one suspect that 
the white blood which flows in his veins in 
such preponderating measure had ever been 
crossed by that of a darker race," wrote the 
reporter, who had received instructions at 



126 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

the office that for urgent business considera- 
tions the lake shipping interest wanted Repre- 
sentative Brown treated with marked consid- 
eration. 

There was more of the article, but the 
introductory portion left Mr. Clayton in such 
a state of bewilderment that the paper fell 
from his hand. What was the meaning of 
it ? Had he been mistaken ? Obviously so, 
or else the reporter was wrong, which was 
manifestly improbable. When he had recov- 
ered himself somewhat, he picked up the 
newspaper and began reading where he had 
left off. 

" Representative Brown traveled to Grove- 
land in company with Bishop Jones of the 
African Methodist Jerusalem Church, who is 
en route to attend the general conference 
of his denomination at Detroit next week. 
The bishop, who came in while the writer 
was interviewing Mr. Brown, is a splendid 
type of the pure negro. He is said to 
be a man of great power among his people, 
which may easily be believed after one has 
looked upon his expressive countenance and 
heard him discuss the questions which affect 
the welfare of his church and his race." 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 127 

Mr. Clayton stared at the paper. " c The 
bishop/ he repeated, " ' is a splendid type 
of the pure negro. I must have mistaken 
the bishop for the Congressman ! But how 
in the world did Jack get the thing balled 
up ? I '11 call up the store and demand an 
explanation of him. 

" Jack/' he asked, " what kind of a looking 
man was the fellow you gave the note to at 
the depot ? " 

" He was a very wicked-looking fellow, sir/' 
came back the answer. " He had a bad eye, 
looked like a gambler, sir. I am not sur- 
prised that you did n't want to entertain him, 
even if he was a Congressman." 

" What color was he — that 's what I want 
to know — and what kind of hair did he 
have ? " 

" Why, he was about my complexion, sir, 
and had straight black hair." 

The rules of the telephone company did 
not permit swearing over the line. Mr. Clay- 
ton broke the rules. 

" Was there any one else with him ? " he 
asked when he had relieved his mind. 

" Yes, sir, Bishop Jones of the African 
Methodist Jerusalem Church was sitting there 



128 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

with him ; they had traveled from Washing- 
ton together. I drove the bishop to his stop- 
ping-place after I had left Mr. Brown at the 
hotel. I did n't suppose you 'd mind." 

Mr. Clayton fell into a chair, and indulged 
in thoughts unutterable. 

He folded up the paper and slipped it 
under the family Bible, where it was least 
likely to be soon discovered. 

" I '11 hide the paper, anyway," he groaned. 
" I '11 never hear the last of this till my dying 
day, so I may as well have a few hours' 
respite. It 's too late to go back, and we 've 
got to play the farce out. Alice is really sick 
with disappointment, and to let her know 
this now would only make her worse. May 
be he '11 leave town in a day or two, and then 
she'll be in condition to stand it. Such 
luck is enough to disgust a man with trying 
to do right and live up to his principles." 

Time hung a little heavy on Mr. Clayton's 
hands during the day. His wife was busy 
with the housework. He answered several 
telephone calls about Alice's health, and called 
up the store occasionally to ask how the busi- 
ness was getting on. After lunch he lay 
down on a sofa and took a nap, from which 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 129 

he was aroused by the sound of the door-bell. 
He went to the door. The evening paper was 
lying on the porch, and the newsboy, who had 
not observed the diphtheria sign until after he 
had rung, was hurrying away as fast as his 
legs would carry him. 

Mr. Clayton opened the paper and looked 
it through to see if there was any reference 
to the visiting Congressman. He found what 
he sought and more. An article on the local 
page contained a resume of the information 
given in the morning paper, with the follow- 
ing additional paragraph : — 

" A reporter, who called at the Forest Hill 
this morning to interview Representative 
Brown, was informed that the Congressman 
had been invited to spend the remainder of 
his time in Groveland as the guest of Mr. 
William Watkins, the proprietor of the popu- 
lar livery establishment on Main Street. Mr. 
Brown will remain in the city several days, and 
a reception will be tendered him at Mr. Wat- 
kins's on Wednesday evening." 

" That ends it," sighed Mr. Clayton. " The 
dove of peace will never again rest on my 
roof -tree." 

But why dwell longer on the sufferings of 



130 A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 

Mr. Clayton, or attempt to describe the feel- 
ings or chronicle the remarks of his wife and 
daughter when they learned the facts in the 
case? 

As to Representative Brown, he was made 
welcome in the hospitable home of Mr. Wil- 
liam Watkins. There was a large and bril- 
liant assemblage at the party on Wednesday 
evening, at which were displayed the costumes 
prepared for the Clayton reception. Mr. 
Brown took a fancy to Miss Lura Watkins, 
to whom, before the week was over, he became 
engaged to be married. Meantime poor Alice, 
the innocent victim of circumstances and prin- 
ciples, lay sick abed with a supposititious case 
of malignant diphtheria, and a real case of 
acute disappointment and chagrin. 

" Oh, Jack ! " exclaimed Alice, a few weeks 
later, on the way home from evening church 
in company with the young man, " what a 
dreadful tiling it all was ! And to think of 
that hateful Lura Watkins marrying the 
Congressman ! " 

The street was shaded by trees at the point 
where they were passing, and there was no 
one in sight. Jack put his arm around her 
waist, and, leaning over, kissed her. 



A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE 131 

" Never mind, dear/' he said soothingly, 
" you still have your ' last chance ' left, and I '11 
prove myself a better man than the Congress- 
man." 

Occasionally, at social meetings, when the 
vexed question of the future of the colored 
race comes up, as it often does, for discussion, 
Mr. Clayton may still be heard to remark 
sententiously : — 

" What the white people of the United 
States need most, in dealing with this problem, 
is a higher conception of the brotherhood of 
man. For of one blood God made all the 
nations of the earth." 



CICELY'S DREAM 



The old woman stood at the back door of 
the cabin, shading her eyes with her hand, 
and looking across the vegetable garden that 
ran up to the very door. Beyond the garden 
she saw, bathed in the sunlight, a field of 
corn, just in the ear, stretching for half a 
mile, its yellow, pollen-laden tassels over- 
topping the dark green mass of broad glisten- 
ing blades ; and in the distance, through the 
faint morning haze of evaporating dew, the 
line of the woods, of a still darker green, 
meeting the clear blue of the summer sky. 
Old Dinah saw, going down the path, a tall, 
brown girl, in a homespun frock, swinging a 
slat-bonnet in one hand and a splint basket 
in the other. 

" Oh, Cicely ! " she called. 

The girl turned and answered in a resonant 
voice, vibrating with youth and life, — 

" Yes, granny ! " 



CICELY'S DREAM 133 

" Be sho' and pick a good mess er peas, 
chile, fer yo' gran' daddy 's gwine ter be home 
ter dinner ter-day." 

The old woman stood a moment longer and 
then turned to go into the house. What she 
had not seen was that the girl was not only 
young, but lithe and shapely as a sculptor's 
model ; that her bare feet seemed to spurn 
the earth as they struck it ; that though 
brown, she was not so brown but that her 
cheek was darkly red with the blood of an- 
other race than that which gave her her name 
and station in life ; and the old woman did not 
see that Cicely's face was as comely as her 
figure was superb, and that her eyes were 
dreamy with vague yearnings. 

Cicely climbed the low fence between the 
garden and the cornfield, and started down 
one of the long rows leading directly away 
from the house. Old Needham was a good 
ploughman, and straight as an arrow ran the 
furrow between the rows of corn, until it van- 
ished in the distant perspective. The peas 
were planted beside alternate hills of corn, the 
corn-stalks serving as supports for the climb- 
ing pea-vines. The vines nearest the house 
had been picked more or less clear of the long 



134 CICELY'S DREAM 

green pods, and Cicely walked down the row 
for a quarter of a mile, to where the peas were 
more plentiful. And as she walked she 
thought of her dream of the night before. 

She had dreamed a beautiful dream. The 
fact that it was a beautiful dream, a delight- 
ful dream, her memory retained very vividly. 
She was troubled because she could not 
remember just what her dream had been 
about. Of one other fact she was certain, that 
in her dream she had found something, and 
that her happiness had been bound up with the 
thing she had found. As she walked down the 
corn-row she ran over in her mind the various 
things with which she had always associated 
happiness. Had she found a gold ring ? No, 
it was not a gold ring — of that she felt sure. 
Was it a soft, curly plume for her hat ? 
She had seen town people with them, and 
had indulged in day-dreams on the subject; 
but it was not a feather. Was it a bright- 
colored silk dress ? No ; as much as she had 
always wanted one, it was not a silk dress. 
For an instant, in a dream, she had tasted 
some great and novel happiness, and when 
she awoke it was dashed from her lips, and 
she could not even enjoy the memory of it, 



CICELY'S DREAM 135 

except in a vague, indefinite, and tantalizing 
way. 

Cicely was troubled, too, because dreams 
were serious things. Dreams had certain 
meanings, most of them, and some dreams 
went by contraries. If her dream had been 
a prophecy of some good thing, she had by 
forgetting it lost the pleasure of anticipa- 
tion. If her dream had been one of those 
that go by contraries, the warning would be 
in vain, because she would not know against 
what evil to provide. So, with a sigh, Cicely 
said to herself that it was a troubled world, 
more or less ; and having come to a promising 
point, began to pick the tenderest pea-pods 
and throw them into her basket. 

By the time she had reached the end of the 
line the basket was nearly full. Glancing 
toward the pine woods beyond the rail fence, 
she saw a brier bush loaded with large, 
luscious blackberries. Cicely was fond of 
blackberries, so she set her basket down, 
climbed the fence, and was soon busily en- 
gaged in gathering the fruit, delicious even 
in its wild state. 

She had soon eaten all she cared for. But 
the berries were still numerous, and it occurred 



136 CICELY'S DREAM 

« 

to her that her granddaddy would like a black- 
berry pudding for dinner. Catching up her 
apron, and using it as a receptacle for the 
berries, she had gathered scarcely more than 
a handful when she heard a groan. 

Cicely was not timid, and her curiosity 
being aroused by the sound, she stood erect, 
and remained in a listening attitude. In a 
moment the sound was repeated, and, gaug- 
ing the point from which it came, she plunged 
resolutely into the thick underbrush of the 
forest. She had gone but a few yards when 
she stopped short with an exclamation of 
surprise and concern. 

Upon the ground, under the shadow of the 
towering pines, a man lay at full length, — 
a young man, several years under thirty, ap- 
parently, so far as his age could be guessed 
from a face that wore a short soft beard, 
and was so begrimed with dust and in- 
crusted with blood that little could be seen of 
the underlying integument. What was visi- 
ble showed a skin browned by nature or by 
exposure. His hands were of even a darker 
brown, almost as dark as Cicely's own. A 
tangled mass of very curly black hair, matted 
with burs, dank with dew, and clotted with 



CICELY'S DREAM 137 

blood, fell partly over his forehead, on the 
edge of which, extending back into the hair, 
an ugly scalp wound was gaping, and, though 
apparently not just inflicted, was still bleeding 
slowly, as though reluctant to stop, in spite 
of the coagulation that had almost closed it. 

Cicely with a glance took in all this and 
more. But, first of all, she saw the man was 
wounded and bleeding, and the nurse latent 
in all womankind awoke in her to the require- 
ments of the situation. She knew there was 
a spring a few rods away, and ran swiftly 
to it. There was usually a gourd at the 
spring, but now it was gone. Pouring out 
the blackberries in a little heap where they 
could be found again, she took off her 
apron, dipped one end of it into the spring, 
and ran back to the wounded man. The 
apron was clean, and she squeezed a little 
stream of water from it into the man's 
mouth. He swallowed it with avidity. Cicely 
then knelt by his side, and with the wet 
end of her apron washed the blood from 
the wound lightly, and the dust from the 
man's face. Then she looked at her apron a 
moment, debating whether she should tear it 
or not. 



138 CICELY'S BREAM 

"I'm feared granny '11 be mad," she said 
to herself. " I reckon I '11 jes' use de whole 
apron." 

So she bound the apron around his head 
as well as she could, and then sat down a 
moment on a fallen tree trunk, to think what 
she should do next. The man already seemed 
more comfortable ; he had ceased moaning, 
and lay quiet, though breathing heavily. 

" What shall I do with that man ? " she 
reflected. " I don' know whether he 's a 
w'ite man or a black man. Ef he 's a w'ite 
man, I oughter go an' tell de w'ite folks 
up at de big house, an' dey 'd take keer 
of 'im. If he 's a black man, I oughter go 
tell granny. He don' look lack a black man 
somehow er nuther, an' yet he don' look 
lack a w'ite man ; he 's too dahk, an' his 
hair's too curly. But I mus' do somethin' 
wid 'im. He can't be lef here ter die in de 
woods all by hisse'f . Keckon I '11 go an' 
tell granny." 

She scaled the fence, caught up the basket 
of peas from where she had left it, and ran, 
lightly and swiftly as a deer, toward the 
house. Her short skirt did not impede her 
progress, and in a few minutes she had 



CICELY'S DBEAM 139 

covered the half mile and was at the cabin 
door, a slight heaving of her full and yet 
youthful breast being the only sign of any 
unusual exertion. 

Her story was told in a moment. The old 
woman took down a black bottle from a high 
shelf, and set out with Cicely across the corn- 
field, toward the wounded man. 

As they went through the corn Cicely re- 
called part of her dream. She had dreamed 
that under some strange circumstances — what 
they had been was still obscure — she had met 
a young man — a young man whiter than she 
and yet not all white — and that he had loved 
her and courted her and married her. Her 
dream had been all the sweeter because in it 
she had first tasted the sweetness of love, and 
she had not recalled it before because only in 
her dream had she known or thought of love 
as something supremely desirable. 

With the memory of her dream, how- 
ever, her fears revived. Dreams were sol- 
emn things. To Cicely the fabric of a vision 
was by no means baseless. Her trouble arose 
from her not being able to recall, though she 
was well versed in dream-lore, just what event 
was foreshadowed by a dream of finding a 



140 CICELTS DREAM 

wounded man. If the wounded man were of 
her own race, her dream would thus far have 
been realized, and having met the young man, 
the other joys might be expected to follow. 
If he should turn out to be a white man, 
then her dream was clearly one of the kind 
that go by contraries, and she could expect 
only sorrow and trouble and pain as the 
proper sequences of this fateful discovery. 



II 

The two women reached the fence that 
separated the cornfield from the pine woods. 

" How is I gwine ter git ovuh dat fence, 
chile? " asked the old woman. 

" Wait a minute, granny," said Cicely ; 
" I '11 take it down." 

It was only an eight-rail fence, and it was 
a matter of but a few minutes for the girl to 
lift down and lay to either side the ends 
of the rails that formed one of the angles. 
This done, the old woman easily stepped across 
the remaining two or three rails. It was only 
a moment before they stood by the wounded 
man. He was lying still, breathing regularly, 
and seemingly asleep. 



CICELY'S BEE AM 141 

" What is he, granny/' asked the girl 
anxiously, " a w'ite man, or not ? ' : 

Old Dinah pushed back the matted hair 
from the wounded man's brow, and looked at 
the skin beneath. It was fairer there, but 
yet of a decided brown. She raised his hand, 
pushed back the tattered sleeve from his wrist, 
and then she laid his hand down gently. 

" Mos' lackly he 's a mulatter man f 'om 
up de country somewhar. He don' look lack 
dese yer niggers roun' yere, ner yet lack a 
w'ite man. But de po' boy 's in a bad fix, 
w'ateber he is, an' I 'spec's we bettah do w'at 
we kin fer 'im, an' w'en he comes to he '11 
tell us w'at he is — er w'at he calls hisse'f . 
Hoi' 'is head up, chile, an' I '11 po' a drop er 
dis yer liquor down his th'oat ; dat '11 bring 
'im to quicker 'n anything e'se I knows." 

Cicely lifted the sick man's head, and 
Dinah poured a few drops of the whiskey 
between his teeth. He swallowed it readily 
enough. In a few minutes he opened his eyes 
and stared blankly at the two women. Cicely 
saw that his eyes were large and black, and 
glistening with fever. 

" How you feelin', suh ? ' asked the old 
woman. 



142 CICELY'S DREAM 

There was no answer. 

" Is you f eelin' bettah now ? " 

The wounded man kept on staring blankly. 
Suddenly he essayed to put his hand to his 
head, gave a deep groan, and fell back again 
unconscious. 

" He 's gone ag'in," said Dinah. " I 
reckon we '11 hafter tote 'im up ter de house 
and take keer er 'im dere. Wite folks 
would n't want ter fool wid a nigger man, an' 
we doan know who his folks is. He 's outer 
his head an' will be fer some time yet, an' we 
can't tell nuthin' 'bout 'im tel he comes ter 
his senses." 

Cicely lifted the wounded man by the arms 
and shoulders. She was strong, with the 
strength of youth and a sturdy race. The 
man was pitifully emaciated ; how much, the 
two women had not suspected until they 
raised him. They had no difficulty whatever, 
except for the awkwardness of such a burden, 
in lifting him over the fence and carrying 
him through the cornfield to the cabin. 

They laid him on Cicely's bed in the little 
lean-to shed that formed a room separate from 
the main apartment of the cabin. The old 
woman sent Cicely to cook the dinner, while 



CICELY'S BREAM 143 

she gave her own attention exclusively to 
the still unconscious man. She brought water 
and washed him as though he were a child. 

" Po' boy/' she said, " he doan feel lack 
he 's be'n eatin' nuff to feed a sparrer. He 
'pears ter be mos' starved ter def." 

She washed his wound more carefully, made 
some lint, — the art was well known in the 
sixties, — and dressed his wound with a fair 
degree of skill. 

" Somebody must 'a' be'n tryin' ter put yo' 
light out, chile," she muttered to herself as 
she adjusted the bandage around his head. 
" A little higher er a little lower, an' you 
would n' 'a' be'n yere ter tell de tale. Dem 
clo's," she argued, lifting the tattered gar- 
ments she had removed from her patient, 
"don' b'long 'roun' yere. Dat kinder weavin' 
come f'om down to'ds Souf Ca'lina. I wish 
Needham 'u'd come erlong. He kin tell who 
dis man is, an' all erbout 'im." 

She made a bowl of gruel, and fed it, drop 
by drop, to the sick man. This roused him 
somewhat from his stupor, but when Dinah 
thought he had enough of the gruel, and 
stopped feeding him, he closed his eyes again 
and relapsed into a heavy sleep that was so 



144 CICELY'S DREAM 

closely akin to unconsciousness as to be 
scarcely distinguishable from it. 

When old Needham came home at noon, 
his wife, who had been anxiously awaiting 
his return, told him in a few words the story 
of Cicely's discovery and of the subsequent 
events. 

Needham inspected the stranger with a pro- 
fessional eye. He had been something of a 
plantation doctor in his day, and was known 
far and wide for his knowledge of simple 
remedies. The negroes all around, as well as 
many of the poorer white people, came to him 
for the treatment of common ailments. 

" He 's got a fevuh," he said, after feeling 
the patient's pulse and laying his hand on 
his brow, " an' we '11 hafter gib 'im some yarb 
tea an' nuss 'im tel de fevuh w'ars off. I 
'spec'," he added, " dat I knows whar dis 
boy come f'om. He 's mos' lackly one er dem 
bright mulatters, f'om Robeson County — 
some of 'em call deyse'ves Croatan Injins — 
w'at's been conscripted an' sent ter wu'k on 
de fo'tifications down at Wimbleton er some- 
'er's er nuther, an' done 'scaped, and got mos' 
killed gittin' erway, an' wuz n' none too well 
fed befo', an' nigh 'bout starved ter def sence. 



CICELY'S BREAM 145 

We '11 hafter hide dis man, er e'se we is 
lackly ter git inter trouble ou'se'ves by harb'- 
rin' 'im. Ef dey ketch 'im yere, dey 's liable 
ter take 'im out an' shoot 'im — an' des ez 
lackly us too." 

Cicely was listening with bated breath. 

"Oh, gran'daddy," she cried with trem- 
bling* voice, "don' let 'em ketch 'im ! Hide 
'im somewhar." 

" I reckon we '11 leave 'im yere f er a day er 
so. Ef he had come f ' om roun' yere I 'd be 
skeered ter keep 'im, fer de w'ite folks 'u'd 
prob'ly be lookin' fer 'im. But I knows ev'y- 
body w'at 's be'n conscripted fer ten miles 
'roun', an' dis yere boy don' b'long in dis 
neighborhood. Wen 'e gits so 'e kin he'p 
'isse'f we'll put 'im up in de lof ' an' hide 'im 
till de Yankees come. Fer dey 're comin', 
sho'. I dremp' las' night dey wuz close ter 
han', and I hears de w'ite folks talkin' ter 
deyse'ves 'bout it. An' de time is comin' 
w'en de good Lawd gwine ter set his people 
free, an' it ain' gwine ter be long, nuther." 

Needham's prophecy proved true. In less 
than a week the Confederate garrison evacu- 
ated the arsenal in the neighboring town of 
Pates ville, blew up the buildings, destroyed 



146 CICELY'S DEE AM 

the ordnance and stores, and retreated across 
the Cape Fear River, burning the river bridge 
behind them, — two acts of war afterwards 
unjustly attributed to General Sherman's 
army, which followed close upon the heels 
of the retreating Confederates. 

When there was no longer any fear for 
the stranger's safety, no more pains were 
taken to conceal him. His wound had healed 
rapidly, and in a week he had been able with 
some help to climb up the ladder into the 
loft. In all this time, however, though appar- 
ently conscious, he had said no word to any 
one, nor had he seemed to comprehend a 
word that was spoken to him. 

Cicely had been his constant attendant. 
After the first day, during which her granny 
had nursed him, she had sat by his bedside, 
had fanned his fevered brow, had held food 
and water and medicine to his lips. When it 
was safe for him to come down from the loft 
and sit in a chair under a spreading oak, 
Cicely supported him until he was strong 
enough to walk about the yard. When his 
strength had increased sufficiently to permit 
of greater exertion, she accompanied him on 
long rambles in the fields and woods. 



CICELY'S BREAM 147 

In spite of his gain in physical strength, 
the newcomer changed very little in other re- 
spects. For a long time he neither spoke nor 
smiled. To questions put to him he simply 
gave no reply, but looked at his questioner 
with the blank unconsciousness of an infant. 
By and by he began to recognize Cicely, and 
to smile at her approach. The next step in 
returning consciousness was but another mani- 
festation of the same sentiment. When Cicely 
would leave him he would look his regret, 
and be restless and uneasy until she returned. 

The family were at a loss what to call him. 
To any inquiry as to his name he answered 
no more than to other questions. 

" He come jes' bef o' Sherman/' said Need- 
ham, after a few weeks, "lack John de Bap- 
tis' befo' de Lawd. I reckon we bettah call 
'im John." 

So they called him John. He soon learned 
the name. As time went on Cicely found 
that he was quick at learning things. She 
taught him to speak her own negro English, 
which he pronounced with absolute fidelity to 
her intonations ; so that barring the quality of 
his voice, his speech was an echo of Cicely's 
own. 



148 CICELY'S DREAM 

The summer wore away and the autumn 
came. John and Cicely wandered in the 
woods together and gathered walnuts, and 
chinquapins and wild grapes. When harvest 
time came, they worked in the fields side by 
side, — plucked the corn, pulled the fodder, 
and gathered the dried peas from the yellow 
pea-vines. Cicely was 'a phenomenal cotton- 
picker, and John accompanied her to the 
fields and stayed by her hours at a time, 
though occasionally he would complain of his 
head, and sit under a tree and rest part of the 
day while Cicely worked, the two keeping one 
another always in sight. 

They did not have a great deal of inter- 
course with other people. Young men came 
to the cabin sometimes to see Cicely, but 
when they found her entirely absorbed in the 
stranger they ceased their visits. For a time 
Cicely kept him away, as much as possible, 
from others, because she did not wish them to 
see that there was anything wrong about him. 
This was her motive at first, but after a while 
she kept him to herself simply because she 
was happier so. He was hers — hers alone. 
She had found him, as Pharaoh's daughter 
had found Moses in the bulrushes; she* had 



CICELY'S DREAM 149 

taught him to speak, to think, to love. She 
had not taught him to remember ; she would 
not have wished him to ; she would have been 
jealous of any past to which he might have 
proved bound by other ties. Her dream so 
far had come true. She had found him ; he 
loved her. The rest of it would as surely fol- 
low, and that before long. For dreams were 
serious things, and time had proved hers to 
have been not a presage of misfortune, but 
one of the beneficent visions that are sent, 
that we may enjoy by anticipation the good 
things that are in store for us. 



Ill 

But a short interval of time elapsed after 
the passage of the warlike host that swept 
through North Carolina, until there appeared 
upon the scene the vanguard of a second 
army, which came to bring light and the 
fruits of liberty to a land which slavery and 
the havoc of war had brought to ruin. It is 
fashionable to assume that those who under- 
took the political rehabilitation of the South- 
ern States merely rounded out the ruin that 
the war had wrought -*— merely ploughed up 



150 CICELY'S DREAM 

the desolate land and sowed it with salt. 
Perhaps the gentler judgments of the future 
may recognize that their task was a difficult 
one, and that wiser and honester men might 
have failed as egregiously. It may even, in 
time, be conceded that some good came out of 
the carpet-bag governments, as, for instance, 
the establishment of a system of popular edu- 
cation in the former slave States. Where it 
had been a crime to teach people to read or 
write, a schoolhouse dotted every hillside, and 
the State provided education for rich and 
poor, for white and black alike. Let us lay 
at least this token upon the grave of the car- 
pet-baggers. The evil they did lives after 
them, and the statute of limitations does not 
seem to run against it. It is but just that 
we should not forget the good. 

Long, however, before the work of political 
reconstruction had begun, a brigade of Yankee 
schoolmasters and schoolma'ams had invaded 
Dixie, and one of the latter had opened a 
Freedman's Bureau School in the town of 
Patesville, about four miles from Needham 
Green's cabin on the neighboring sandhills. 

It had been quite a surprise to Miss Chand- 
ler's Boston friends when she had announced 



CICELY'S BEE AM 151 

her intention of going South to teach the 
freedmen. Rich, accomplished, beautiful, and 
a social favorite, she was giving up the com- 
forts and luxuries of Northern life to go 
among hostile strangers, where her associates 
would be mostly ignorant negroes. Perhaps 
she might meet occasionally an officer of some 
Federal garrison, or a traveler from the North ; 
but to all intents and purposes her friends 
considered her as going into voluntary exile. 
But heroism was not rare in those days, and 
Martha Chandler was only one of the great 
multitude whose hearts went out toward an 
oppressed race, and who freely poured out 
their talents, their money, their lives, — what- 
ever God had given them, — in the sublime 
and not unfruitful effort to transform three 
millions of slaves into intelligent freemen. 
Miss Chandler's friends knew, too, that she 
had met a great sorrow, and more than sus- 
pected that out of it had grown her determi- 
nation to go South. 

When Cicely Green heard that a school for 
colored people had been opened at Patesville 
she combed her hair, put on her Sunday frock 
and such bits of finery as she possessed, and 
set out for town early the next Monday morn- 
ing. 



152 CICELY'S DREAM 

There were many who came to learn the 
new gospel of education, which was to be the 
cure for all the freedmen's ills. The old and 
gray-haired, the full-grown man and woman, 
the toddling infant, — they came to acquire 
the new and wonderful learning that was to 
make them the equals of the white people. 
It was the teacher's task, by no means an easy 
one, to select from this incongruous mass the 
most promising material, and to distribute 
among them the second-hand books and cloth- 
ing that were sent, largely by her Boston 
friends, to aid her in her work ; to find out 
what they knew, to classify them by their 
intelligence rather than by their knowledge, 
for they were all lamentably ignorant. Some 
among them were the children of parents who 
had been free before the war, and of these 
some few could read and one or two could 
write. One paragon, who could repeat the 
multiplication table, was immediately pro- 
moted to the position of pupil teacher. 

Miss Chandler took a liking to the tall girl 
who had come so far to sit under her instruc- 
tion. There was a fine, free air in her bear- 
ing, a lightness in her step, a sparkle in her 
eye, that spoke of good blood, — whether 



CICELY'S DEE AM 153 

fused by nature in its own alembic, out of 
material despised and spurned of men, or 
whether some obscure ancestral strain, the 
teacher could not tell. The girl proved in- 
telligent and learned rapidly, indeed seemed 
almost feverishly anxious to learn. She was 
quiet, and was, though utterly untrained, in- 
stinctively polite, and profited from the first 
day by the example of her teacher's qmet ele- 
gance. The teacher dressed in simple black. 
When Cicely came back to school the second 
day, she had left off her glass beads and her 
red ribbon, and had arranged her hair as 
nearly like the teacher's as her skill and its 
quality would permit. 

The teacher was touched by these efforts 
at imitation, and by the intense devotion 
Cicely soon manifested toward her. It was 
not a sycophantic, troublesome devotion, that 
made itself a burden to its object. It found 
expression in little things done rather than 
in any words the girl said. To the degree 
that the attraction was mutual, Martha recog- 
nized in it a sort of freemasonry of tem- 
perament that drew them together in spite 
of the differences between them. Martha 
felt sometimes, in the vague way that one 



154 CICELY'S DREAM 

speculates about the impossible, that if she 
were brown, and had been brought up in 
North Carolina, she would be like Cicely; 
and that if Cicely's ancestors had come over 
in the Mayflower, and Cicely had been reared 
on Beacon Street, in the shadow of the State 
House dome, Cicely would have been very 
much like herself. 

Miss Chandler was lonely sometimes. Her 
duties kept her occupied all day. On Sun- 
days she taught a Bible class in the school- 
room. Correspondence with bureau officials 
and friends at home furnished her with addi- 
tional occupation. At times, nevertheless, she 
felt a longing for the company of women 
of her own race; but the white ladies of the 
town did not call, even in the most formal 
way, upon the Yankee school-teacher. Miss 
Chandler was therefore fain to do the best 
she could with such companionship as was 
available. She took Cicely to her home occa- 
sionally, and asked her once to stay all night. 
Thinking, however, that she detected a re- 
luctance on the girl's part to remain away 
from home, she did not repeat her invita- 
tion. 

Cicely, indeed, was filling a double role. 



CICELY'S DREAM 155 

The learning acquired from Miss Chandler 
she imparted to John at home. Every even- 
ing, by the light of the pine-knots blazing on 
Needham's ample hearth, she taught John to 
read the simple words she had learned during 
the day. Why she did not take him to school 
she had never asked herself ; there were several 
other pupils as old as he seemed to be. Per- 
haps she still thought it necessary to protect 
him from curious remark. He worked with 
Needham by day, and she could see him at 
night, and all of Saturdays and Sundays. 
Perhaps it was the jealous selfishness of love. 
She had found him ; he was hers. In the 
spring, when school was over, her granny had 
said that she might marry him. Till then her 
dream would not yet have come true, and she 
must keep him to herself. And yet she did 
not wish him to lose this golden key to the 
avenues of opportunity. She would not take 
him to school, but she would teach him each 
day all that she herself had learned. He was 
not difficult to teach, but learned, indeed, 
with what seemed to Cicely marvelous ease, 
— always, however, by her lead, and never of 
his own initiative. For while he could do a 
man's work, he was in most things but a child, 



156 CICELY'S DREAM 

without a child's curiosity. His love for 
Cicely appeared the only thing for which he 
needed no suggestion ; and even that pos- 
sessed an element of childish dependence 
that would have seemed, to minds trained to 
thoughtful observation, infinitely pathetic. 

The spring came and cotton-planting time. 
The children began to drop out of Miss 
Chandler's school one by one, as their services 
were required at home. Cicely was among 
those who intended to remain in school until 
the term closed with the " exhibition," in 
which she was assigned a leading part. She 
had selected her recitation, or " speech," 
from among half a dozen poems that her 
teacher had suggested, and to memorizing it 
she devoted considerable time and study. 
The exhibition, as the first of its kind, was 
sure to be a notable event. The parents and 
friends of the children were invited to attend, 
and a colored church, recently erected, — the 
largest available building, — was secured as 
the place where the exercises should take 
place. 

On the morning of the eventful day, uncle 
Needham, assisted by John, harnessed the 
mule to the two-wheeled cart, on which a 



CICELTS DREAM 157 

couple of splint-bottomed chairs were fastened 
to accommodate Dinah and Cicely. John put 
on his best clothes, — an ill-fitting suit of 
blue jeans, — a round wool hat, a pair of 
coarse brogans, a homespun shirt, and a 
bright blue necktie. Cicely wore her best 
frock, a red ribbon at her throat, another in 
her hair, and carried a bunch of flowers in 
her hand. Uncle Needham and aunt Dinah 
were also in holiday array. Needham and 
John took their seats on opposite sides of the 
cart-frame, with their feet dangling down, 
and thus the equipage set out leisurely for 
the town. 

Cicely had long looked forward impatiently 
to this day. She was going to marry John 
the next week, and then her dream would 
have come entirely true. But even this an- 
ticipated happiness did not overshadow the 
importance of the present occasion, which 
would be an epoch in her life, a day of joy 
and triumph. She knew her speech per- 
fectly, and timidity was not one of her weak- 
nesses. She knew that the red ribbons set 
off her dark beauty effectively, and that her 
dress fitted neatly the curves of her shapely 
figure. She confidently expected to win the 



158 CICELY'S DREAM 

first prize, a large morocco-covered Bible, 
offered by Miss Chandler for the best exer- 
cise. 

Cicely and her companions soon arrived at 
Patesville. Their entrance into the church 
made quite a sensation, for Cicely was not 
only an acknowledged belle, but a general 
favorite, and to John there attached a tinge 
of mystery which inspired a respect not be- 
stowed upon those who had grown up in the 
neighborhood. Cicely secured a seat in the 
front part of the church, next to the aisle, in 
the place reserved for the pupils. As the 
house was already partly filled by townspeo- 
ple when the party from the country arrived, 
Needham and his wife and John were forced 
to content themselves with places somewhat 
in the rear of the room, from which they 
could see and hear what took place on the 
platform, but where they were not at all 
conspicuously visible to those at the front of 
the church. 

The schoolmistress had not yet arrived, 
and order was preserved in the audience by 
two of the elder pupils, adorned with large 
rosettes of red, white, and blue, who ushered 
the most important visitors to the seats 



CICELTS DREAM 159 

reserved for them. A national flag was 
gracefully draped over the platform, and 
under it hung a lithograph of the Great 
Emancipator, for it was thus these people 
thought of him. He had saved the Union, 
but the Union had never meant anything 
good to them. He had proclaimed liberty to 
the captive, which meant all to them ; and to 
them he was and would ever be the Great 
Emancipator. 

The schoolmistress came in at a rear door 
and took her seat upon the platform. Martha 
was dressed in white ; for once she had laid 
aside the sombre garb in which alone she had 
been seen since her arrival at Patesville. She 
wore a yellow rose at her throat, a bunch of 
jasmine in her belt. A sense of responsi- 
bility for the success of the exhibition had 
deepened the habitual seriousness of her face, 
yet she greeted the audience with a smile. 

" Don' Miss Chan'ler look sweet," whis- 
pered the little girls to one another, devour- 
ing her beauty with sparkling eyes, their lips 
parted over a wealth of ivory. 

" De Lawd will bress dat chile," said one 
old woman, in soliloquy. " I t'ank de good 
Marster I 's libbed ter see dis day." 



160 CICELY'S BREAM 

Even envy could not hide its noisome 
head : a pretty quadroon whispered to her 
neighbor : — 

" I don't b'liebe she 's natch'ly ez white ez 
dat. I 'spec' she 's be'n powd'rin' ! An' I 
know all dat hair can't be her'n ; she 's got 
on a switch, sho 's you bawn." 

" You knows dat ain' so, Ma'y 'Liza Smif," 
rejoined the other, with a look of stern dis- 
approval ; " you knows dat ain' so. You 'd 
gib yo' everlastin' soul 'f you wuz ez white ez 
Miss Chan'ler, en yo' ha'r wuz ez long ez 
her'n." 

" By Jove, Maxwell ! " exclaimed a young 
officer, who belonged to the Federal garrison 
stationed in the town, " but that girl is a 
beauty." The speaker and a companion were 
in fatigue uniform, and had merely dropped 
in for an hour between garrison duty. The 
ushers had wished to give them seats on the 
platform, but they had declined, thinking 
that perhaps their presence there might em- 
barrass the teacher. They sought rather to 
avoid observation by sitting behind a pillar 
in the rear of the room, around which they 
could see without attracting undue attention. 

" To think," the lieutenant went on, " of 



CICELY'S DREAM 161 

that Junonian figure, those lustrous orbs, 
that golden coronal, that flower of Northern 
civilization, being wasted on these barba- 
rians ! " The speaker uttered an exagger- 
ated but suppressed groan. 

His companion, a young man of clean- 
shaven face and serious aspect, nodded assent, 
but whispered reprovingly, — 

" 'Sh ! some one will hear you. The exer- 
cises are going to begin." 

When Miss Chandler stepped forward to 
announce the hymn to be sung by the school 
as the first exercise, every eye in the room 
was fixed upon her, except John's, which saw 
only Cicely. When the teacher had uttered 
a few words, he looked up to her, and from 
that moment did not take his eyes off 
Martha's face. 

After the singing, a little girl, dressed in 
white, crossed by ribbons of red and blue, 
recited with much spirit a patriotic poem. 

When Martha announced the third exer- 
cise, John's face took on a more than usually 
animated expression, and there was a percep- 
tible deepening of the troubled look in his 
eyes, never entirely absent since Cicely had 
found him in the woods. 



162 CICELY'S DREAM 

A little yellow boy, with long curls, and 
a frightened air, next ascended the platform. 

" Now, Jimmie, be a man, and speak right 
out," whispered his teacher, tapping his arm 
reassuringly with her fan as he passed her. 

Jimmie essayed to recite the lines so fa- 
miliar to a past generation of schoolchil- 
dren : — 

" I knew a widow very poor, 

Who four small children had ; 
The eldest was but six years old, 
A gentle, modest lad." 

He ducked his head hurriedly in a futile 
attempt at a bow; then, following instruc- 
tions previously given him, fixed his eyes 
upon a large cardboard motto hanging on 
the rear wall of the room, which admonished 
him in bright red letters to 

" Always Speak The Truth," 

and started off with assumed confidence — 

" I knew a widow very poor, 
Who" — 

At this point, drawn by an irresistible impulse, 
his eyes sought the level of the audience. 
Ah, fatal blunder ! He stammered, but with 
an effort raised his eyes and began again : 



CICELY'S DREAM 163 

" I knew a widow very poor, 
Who four" — 

Again his treacherous eyes fell, and his little 
remaining self-possession utterly forsook him. 
He made one more despairing effort : — 

" I knew a widow very poor, 
Who four small " — 

and then, bursting into tears, turned and 
fled amid a murmur of sympathy. 

Jimmie's inglorious retreat was covered by 
the singing in chorus of " The Star-spangled 
Banner," after which Cicely Green came for- 
ward to recite her poem. 

" By Jove, Maxwell ! " whispered the young 
officer, who was evidently a connoisseur of 
female beauty, " that is n't bad for a bronze 
Venus. I '11 tell you " — 

" 'Sh ! " said the other. " Keep still." 

When Cicely finished her recitation, the 
young officers began to applaud, but stopped 
suddenly in some confusion as they realized 
that they were the only ones in the audience 
so engaged. The colored people had either 
not learned how to express their approval in 
orthodox fashion, or else their respect for the 
sacred character of the edifice forbade any 
such demonstration. Their enthusiasm founcl 



164 CICELY'S DREAM 

vent, however, in a subdued murmur, empha- 
sized by numerous nods and winks and sup- 
pressed exclamations. During the singing 
that followed Cicely's recitation the two 
officers quietly withdrew, their duties calling 
them away at this hour. 

At the close of the exercises, a committee 
on prizes met in the vestibule, and unani- 
mously decided that Cicely Green was entitled 
to the first prize. Proudly erect, with spar- 
kling eyes and cheeks flushed with victory, 
Cicely advanced to the platform to receive the 
coveted reward. As she turned away, her 
eyes, shining with gratified vanity, sought 
those of her lover. 

John sat bent slightly forward in an attitude 
of strained attention ; and Cicely's triumph 
lost half its value when she saw that it was 
not at her, but at Miss Chandler, that his 
look was directed. Though she watched him 
thenceforward, not one glance did he vouch- 
safe to his jealous sweetheart, and never for 
an instant withdrew his eyes from Martha, or 
relaxed the unnatural intentness of his gaze. 
The imprisoned mind, stirred to unwonted 
effort, was struggling for liberty ; and from 
Martha had come the first ray of outer light 
that had penetrated its dungeon. 



CICELY'S DEEAM 165 

Before the audience was dismissed, the 
teacher rose to bid her school farewell. 
Her intention was to take a vacation of three 
months ; but what might happen in that time 
she did not know, and there were duties at 
home of such apparent urgency as to render 
her return to North Carolina at least doubtful ; 
so that in her own heart her au revoir sounded 
very much like a farewell. 

She spoke to them of the hopeful progress 
they had made, and praised them for their 
eager desire to learn. She told them of the 
serious duties of life, and qi the use they 
should make of their acquirements. With 
prophetic finger she pointed them to the up- 
ward way which they must climb with patient 
feet to raise themselves out of the depths. 

Then, an unusual thing with her, she 
spoke of herself. Her heart was full ; it was 
with difficulty that she maintained her com- 
posure ; for the faces that confronted her 
were kindly faces, and not critical, and some 
of them she had learned to love right well. 

" I am going away from you, my children," 
she said ; " but before I go I want to tell you 
how I came to be in North Carolina ; so that 
if I have been able to do anything here among 



166 CICELY'S DREAM 

you for which you might feel inclined, in your 
good nature, to thank me, you may thank not 
me alone, but another who came before me, 
and whose work I have but taken up where he 
laid it down. I had a friend, — a dear friend, 

— why should I be ashamed to say it ? — a 
lover, to whom I was to be married, — as I 
hope all you girls may some day be happily 
married. His country needed him, and I 
gave him up. He came to fight for the Union 
and for Freedom, for he believed that all men 
are brothers. He did not come back again 

— he gave up his life for you. Could I 
do less than he ? I came to the land that he 
sanctified by his death, and I have tried in my 
weak way to tend the plant he watered with 
his blood, and which, in the fullness of time, 
will blossom forth into the perfect flower of 
liberty." 

She could say no more, and as the whole 
audience thrilled in sympathy with her emo- 
tion, there was a hoarse cry from the men's 
side of the room, and John forced his way to 
the aisle and rushed forward to the platform. 

"Martha! Martha!" 

" Arthur ! Arthur ! " 

Pent-up love burst the flood-gates of de- 



CICELY'S DREAM 167 

spair and oblivion, and caught these two young 
hearts in its torrent. Captain Arthur Carey, 
of the 1st Massachusetts, long since reported 
missing, and mourned as dead, was restored to 
reason and to his world. 

It seemed to him but yesterday that he had 
escaped from the Confederate prison at Salis- 
bury ; that in an encounter with a guard he 
had received a wound in the head ; that he 
had wandered on in the woods, keeping him- 
self alive by means of wild berries, with now 
and then a piece of bread or a potato from a 
friendly negro. It seemed but the night be- 
fore that he had laid himself down, tortured 
with fever, weak from loss of blood, and with 
no hope that he would ever rise again. From 
that moment his memory of the past was a 
blank until he recognized Martha on the plat- 
form and took up again the thread of his for- 
mer existence where it had been broken off. 

And Cicely ? Well, there is often another 
woman, and Cicely, all unwittingly to Carey 
or to Martha, had been the other woman. 
For, after all, her beautiful dream had been 
one of the kind that go by contraries. 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 



When it is said that it was done to please 
a woman, there ought perhaps to be enough 
said to explain anything; for what a man 
will not do to please a woman is yet to be 
discovered. Nevertheless, it might be well to 
state a few preliminary facts to make it clear 
why young Dick Owens tried to run one of 
his father's negro men off to Canada. 

In the early fifties, when the growth of 
anti-slavery sentiment and the constant drain 
of fugitive slaves into the North had so 
alarmed the slaveholders of the border States 
as to lead to the passage of the Fugitive Slave 
Law, a young white man from Ohio, moved 
by compassion for the sufferings of a certain 
bondman who happened to have a " hard mas- 
ter," essayed to help the slave to freedom. 
The attempt was discovered and frustrated; 
the abductor was tried and convicted for slave- 
stealing, and sentenced to a term of imprison- 



THE PASSING OF GEANDISON 169 

ment in the penitentiary. His death, after 
the expiration of only a small part of the 
sentence, from cholera contracted while nurs- 
ing stricken fellow prisoners, lent to the case 
a melancholy interest that made it famous in 
anti-slavery annals. 

Dick Owens had attended the trial. He 
was a youth of about twenty-two, intelligent, 
handsome, and amiable, but extremely indo- 
lent, in a graceful and gentlemanly way ; or, 
as old Judge Fenderson put it more than 
once, he was lazy as the Devil, — a mere figure 
of speech, of course, and not one that did 
justice to the Enemy of Mankind. When 
asked why he never did anything serious, 
Dick would good-naturedly reply, with a well- 
modulated drawl, that he did n't have to. His 
father was rich ; there was but one other 
child, an unmarried daughter, who because of 
poor health would probably never marry, and 
Dick was therefore heir presumptive to a large 
estate. Wealth or social position he did not 
need to seek, for he was born to both. Char- 
ity Lomax had shamed him into studying law, 
but notwithstanding an hour or so a day spent 
at old Judge Fenderson's office, he did not 
make remarkable headway in his legal studies. 



170 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

" What Dick needs," said the judge, who 
was fond of tropes, as became a scholar, and 
of horses, as was befitting a Kentuckian, " is 
the whip of necessity, or the spur of ambition. 
If he had either, he would soon need the 
snaffle to hold him back." 

But all Dick required, in fact, to prompt 
him to the most remarkable thing he accom- 
plished before he was twenty-five, was a mere 
suggestion from Charity Lomax. The story 
was never really known to but two persons 
until after the war, when it came out because 
it was a good story and there was no particu- 
lar reason for its concealment. 

Young Owens had attended the trial of this 
slave-stealer, or martyr, — either or both, — 
and, when it was over, had gone to call on 
Charity Lomax, and, while they sat on the 
veranda after sundown, had told her all about 
the trial. He was a good talker, as his career 
in later years disclosed, and described the pro- 
ceedings very graphically. 

" I confess," he admitted, " that while my 
principles were against the prisoner, my sym- 
pathies were on his side. It appeared that he 
was of good family, and that he had an old 
father and mother, respectable people, depend- 



THE PASSING OF GEANBISON 171 

ent upon him for support and comfort in their 
declining years. He had been led into the 
matter by pity for a negro whose master ought 
to have been run out of the county long ago 
for abusing his slaves. If it had been merely 
a question of old Sam Briggs's negro, nobody 
would have cared anything about it. But 
father and the rest of them stood on the prin- 
ciple of the thing, and told the judge so, and 
the fellow was sentenced to three years in the 
penitentiary." 

Miss Lomax had listened with lively in- 
terest. 

" I 've always hated old Sam Briggs," she 
said emphatically, " ever since the time he 
broke a negro's leg with a piece of cordwood. 
When I hear of a cruel deed it makes the 
Quaker blood that came from my grandmo- 
ther assert itself. Personally I wish that all 
Sam Briggs's negroes would run away. As for 
the young man, I regard him as a hero. He 
dared something for humanity. I could love 
a man who would take such chances for the 
sake of others." 

" Could you love me, Charity, if I did 
something heroic ? " 

" You never will, Dick. You 're too lazy 



172 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

for any use. You '11 never do anything 
harder than playing cards or fox-hunting." 

" Oh, come now, sweetheart ! I 've been 
courting you for a year, and it 's the hardest 
work imaginable. Are you never going to 
love me ? " he pleaded. 

His hand sought hers, but she drew it 
back beyond his reach. 

" I '11 never love you, Dick Owens, until 
you have done something. When that time 
comes, I '11 think about it." 

"But it takes so long to do anything worth 
mentioning, and I don't want to wait. One 
must read two years to become a lawyer, and 
work five more to make a reputation. We 
shall both be gray by then." 

"Oh, I don't know," she rejoined. "It 
does n't require a lifetime for a man to prove 
that he is a man. This one did something, 
or at least tried to." 

" Well, I 'm willing to attempt as much as 
any other man. What do you want me to 
do, sweetheart ? Give me a test." 

"Oh, dear me!" said Charity, "I don't 
care what you do, so you do something. 
Eeally, come to think of it, why should I 
care whether you do anything or not ? ' 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 173 

"I'm sure I don't know why you should, 
Charity," rejoined Dick humbly, " for I 'm 
aware that I 'm not worthy of it." 

" Except that I do hate," she added, re- 
lenting slightly, " to see a really clever man 
so utterly lazy and good for nothing." 

" Thank you, my dear ; a word of praise 
from you has sharpened my wits already. I 
have an idea ! Will you love me if / run a 
negro off to Canada ? " 

"What nonsense ! " said Charity scornfully. 
" You must be losing your wits. Steal 
another man's slave, indeed, while your father 
owns a hundred ! " 

" Oh, there '11 be no trouble about that," 
responded Dick lightly ; " I '11 run off one of 
the old man's ; we 've got too many anyway. 
It may not be quite as difficult as the other 
man found it, but it will be just as unlawful, 
and will demonstrate what I am capable of." 

" Seeing 's believing," replied Charity. " Of 
course, what you are talking about now is 
merely absurd. I'm going away for three 
weeks, to visit my aunt in Tennessee. If 
you 're able to tell me, when I return, that 
you 've done something to prove your quality, 
I '11 — well, you may come and tell me 
about it." 



174 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

II 

Young Owens got up about nine o'clock 
next morning, and while making his toilet 
put some questions to his personal attendant, 
a rather bright looking young mulatto of 
about his own age. 

" Tom," said Dick. 

" Yas, Mars Dick," responded the servant. 

" I 'm going on a trip North. Would you 
like to go with me ? ' 

Now, if there was anything that Tom 
would have liked to make, it was a trip North. 
It was something he had long contemplated 
in the abstract, but had never been able to 
muster up sufficient courage to attempt in the 
concrete. He was prudent enough, however, 
to dissemble his feelings. 

" I would n't min' it, Mars Dick, ez long 
ez you 'd take keer er me an' fetch me home 
all right." 

Tom's eyes belied his words, however, and 
his young master felt well assured that Tom 
needed only a good opportunity to make him 
run away. Having a comfortable home, and 
a dismal prospect in case of failure, Tom was 
not likely to take any desperate chances \ but 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 175 

young Owens was satisfied that in a free State 
but little persuasion would be required to lead 
Tom astray. With a very logical and char- 
acteristic desire to gain his end with the least 
necessary expenditure of effort, he decided to 
take Tom with him, if his father did not 
object. 

Colonel Owens had left the house when 
Dick went to breakfast, so Dick did not see 
his father till luncheon. 

"Father," he remarked casually to the 
colonel, over the fried chicken, " I 'm feeling 
a trifle run down. I imagine my health 
would be improved somewhat by a little 
travel and change of scene." 

" Why don't you take a trip North ? ' 
suggested his father. The colonel added to 
paternal affection a considerable respect for 
his son as the heir of a large estate. He 
himself had been " raised ' in comparative 
poverty, and had laid the foundations of his 
fortune by hard work ; and while he despised 
the ladder by which he had climbed, he could 
not entirely forget it, and unconsciously mani- 
fested, in his intercourse with his son, some of 
the poor man's deference toward the wealthy 
and well-born. 



176 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

" I think I '11 adopt your suggestion, sir," 
replied the son, " and run up to New York ; 
and after I 've been there awhile I may go 
on to Boston for a week or so. I Ve never 
been there, you know." 

" There are some matters you can talk over 
with my factor in New York," rejoined the 
colonel, " and while you are up there among 
the Yankees, I hope you '11 keep your eyes 
and ears open to find out what the rascally 
abolitionists are saying and doing. They 're 
becoming altogether too active for our com- 
fort, and entirely too many ungrateful niggers 
are running away. I hope the conviction of 
that fellow yesterday may discourage the rest 
of the breed. I 'd just like to catch any one 
trying to run off one of my darkeys. He 'd 
get short shrift ; I don't think any Court 
would have a chance to try him." 

" They are a pestiferous lot," assented Dick, 
" and dangerous to our institutions. But 
say, father, if I go North I shall want to take 
Tom with me." 

Now, the colonel, while a very indulgent 
father, had pronounced views on the subject 
of negroes, having studied them, as he often 
said, for a great many years, and, as he 



THE PASSING OF GBANDISON 177 

asserted oftener still, understanding them 
perfectly. It is scarcely worth while to say, 
either, that he valued more highly than if he 
had inherited them the slaves he had toiled 
and schemed for. 

" I don't think it safe to take Tom up 
North," he declared, with promptness and de- 
cision. "He's a good enough boy, but too 
smart to trust among those low-down abolition- 
ists. I strongly suspect him of having learned 
to read, though I can't imagine how. I saw 
him with a newspaper the other day, and while 
he pretended to be looking at a woodcut, I 'm 
almost sure he was reading the paper. I 
think it by no means safe to take him." 

Dick did not insist, because he knew it was 
useless. The colonel would have obliged his 
son in any other matter, but his negroes were 
the outward and visible sigfn of his wealth 
and station, and therefore sacred to him. 

" Whom do you think it safe to take ? " 
asked Dick. " I suppose I '11 have to have a 
body-servant." 

" What 's the matter with Grandison ? " 
suggested the colonel. "He 's handy enough, 
and I reckon we can trust him. He 's too fond 
of good eating, to risk losing his regular 



178 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

meals ; besides, he 's sweet on your mother's 
maid, Betty, and I 've promised to let 'em get 
married before long. I '11 have Grandison up, 
and we'll talk to him. Here, you boy Jack," 
called the colonel to a yellow youth in the 
next room who was catching flies and pulling 
their wings off to pass the time, " go down to 
the barn and tell Grandison to come here." 

" Grandison," said the colonel, when the 
negro stood before him, hat in hand. 

" Yas, marster." 

" Have n't I always treated you right ? ' 

" Yas, marster." 

" Have n't you always got all you wanted 
to eat?" 

" Yas, marster." 

" And as much whiskey and tobacco as was 
good for you, Grandison ? " 

" Y-a-s, marster." 

"I should just like to know, Grandison, 
whether you don't think yourself a great deal 
better off than those poor free negroes down 
by the plank road, with no kind master to 
look after them and no mistress to give them 
medicine when they 're sick and — and " — 

" Well, I sh'd jes' reckon I is better off, 
suh, dan dem low-down free niggers, suh ! 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 179 

Ef anybody ax 'em who dey b'long ter, dey 
has ter say nobody, er e'se lie erbout it. 
Anybody ax ine who I b'longs ter, I am' got 
no 'casion ter be shame' ter tell 'em, no, suh, 
'deed I ain', suh ! " 

The colonel was beaming. This was true 
gratitude, and his feudal heart thrilled at such 
appreciative homage. What cold-blooded, 
heartless monsters they were who would break 
up this blissful relationship of kindly protec- 
tion on the one hand, of wise subordi- 
nation and loyal dependence on the other ! 
The colonel always became indignant at the 
mere thought of such wickedness. 

" Grandison," the colonel continued, " your 
young master Dick is going North for a 
few weeks, and I am thinking of letting him 
take you along. I shall send you on this 
trip, Grandison, in order that you may 
take care of your young master. He will 
need some one to wait on him, and no one 
can ever do it so well as one of the boys 
brought up with him on the old plantation. 
I am going to trust him in your hands, and 
I 'm sure you '11 do your duty faithfully, and 
bring him back home safe and sound — to 
old Kentucky." 



180 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

Grandison grinned. " Oh yas, marster, 
I '11 take keer er young Mars Dick." 

" I want to warn you, though, Grandison/' 
continued the colonel impressively, " against 
these cussed abolitionists, who try to entice 
servants from their comfortable homes and 
their indulgent masters, from the blue skies, 
the green fields, and the warm sunlight of 
their southern home, and send them away off 
yonder to Canada, a dreary country, where 
the woods are full of wildcats and wolves and 
bears, where the snow lies up to the eaves 
of the houses for six months of the year, 
and the cold is so severe that it freezes your 
breath and curdles your blood ; and where, 
when runaway niggers get sick and can't 
work, they are turned out to starve and die, 
unloved and uncared for. I reckon, Grandi- 
son, that you have too much sense to permit 
yourself to be led astray by any such foolish 
and wicked people." 

" 'Deed, suh, I would n' low none er dem 
cussed, low-down abolitioners ter come nigh 
me, suh. I 'd — I 'd — would I be 'lowed ter 
hit 'em, suh ? " 

" Certainly, Grandison," replied the colonel, 
chuckling, " hit 'em as hard as you can. I 



THE PASSING OF GBANDISON 181 

reckon they 'd rather like it. Begad, I be- 
lieve they would ! It would serve 'em right 
to be hit by a nigger ! " 

" Er ef I did n't hit 'em, suh," continued 
Grandison reflectively, " I 'd tell Mars Dick, 
en he 'd fix 'em. He 'd smash de face off'n 
'em, suh, I jes' knows he would." 

" Oh yes, Grandison, your young master 
will protect you. You need fear no harm 
while he is near." 

" Dey won't try ter steal me, will dey, mars- 
ter?" asked the negro, with sudden alarm. 

" I don't know, Grandison," replied the 
colonel, lighting a fresh cigar. " They 're a 
desperate set of lunatics, and there 's no tell- 
ing what they may resort to. But if you 
stick close to your young master, and remem- 
ber always that he is your best friend, and 
understands your real needs, and has your 
true interests at heart, and if you will be 
careful to avoid strangers who try to talk to 
you, you '11 stand a fair chance of getting 
back to your home and your friends. And 
if you please your master Dick, he '11 buy you 
a present, and a string of beads for Betty 
to wear when you and she get married in the 
fall." 



182 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

" Thanky, marster, thanky, suh," replied 
Grandison, oozing gratitude at every pore ; 
" you is a good marster, to be sho', suh ; yas, 
'deed you is. You kin jes' bet me and Mars 
Dick gwine git 'long jes' lack I wuz own boy 
ter Mars Dick. En it won't be my fault ef 
he don' want me fer his boy all de time, w'en 
we come back home ag'in." 

" All right, Grandison, you may go now. 
You need n't work any more to-day, and 
here 's a piece of tobacco for you off my own 
plug." 

" Thanky, marster, thanky, marster ! You 
is de bes' marster any nigger ever had in dis 
worl'." And Grandison bowed and scraped 
and disappeared round the corner, his jaws 
closing around a large section of the colonel's 
best tobacco. 

"You may take Grandison," said the colo- 
nel to his son. " I allow he 's abolitionist- 
proof." 

Ill 

Richard Owens, Esq., and servant, from 
Kentucky, registered at the fashionable New 
York hostelry for Southerners in those days, 
a hotel where an atmosphere congenial to 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 183 

Southern institutions was sedulously main- 
tained. But there were negro waiters in the 
dining-room, and mulatto bell-boys, and Dick 
had no doubt that Grandison, with the native 
gregariousness and garrulousness of his race, 
would foregather and palaver with them 
sooner or later, and Dick hoped that they 
would speedily inoculate him with the virus of 
freedom. For it was not Dick's intention to 
say anything to his servant about his plan to 
free him, for obvious reasons. To mention 
one of them, if Grandison should go away, 
and by legal process be recaptured, his young 
master's part in the matter would doubtless 
become known, which would be embarrass- 
ing to Dick, to say the least. If, on the 
other hand, he should merely give Grandison 
sufficient latitude, he had no doubt he would 
eventually lose him. For while not exactly 
skeptical about Grandison's perfervid loyalty, 
Dick had been a somewhat keen observer of 
human nature, in his own indolent way, and 
based his expectations upon the force of the 
example and argument that his servant could 
scarcely fail to encounter. Grandison should 
have a fair chance to become free by his own 
initiative ; if it should become necessary to 



184 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

adopt other measures to get rid of him, it 
would be time enough to act when the neces- 
sity arose ; and Dick Owens was not the youth 
to take needless trouble. 

The young master renewed some acquaint- 
ances and made others, and spent a week or 
two very pleasantly in the best society of 
the metropolis, easily accessible to a wealthy, 
well-bred young Southerner, with proper in- 
troductions. Young women smiled on him, 
and young men of convivial habits pressed 
their hospitalities ; but the memory of Char- 
ity's sweet, strong face and clear blue eyes 
made him proof against the blandishments 
of the one sex and the persuasions of the 
other. Meanwhile he kept Grandison sup- 
plied with pocket-money, and left him mainly 
to his own devices. Every night when Dick 
came in he hoped he might have to wait 
upon himself, and every morning he looked 
forward with pleasure to the prospect of 
making his toilet unaided. His hopes, how- 
ever, were doomed to disappointment, for 
every night when he came in Grandison was 
on hand with a bootjack, and a nightcap mixed 
for his young master as the colonel had taught 
him to mix it, and every morning Grandison 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 185 

appeared with his master's boots blacked and 
his clothes brushed, and laid his linen out for 
the day. 

" Grandison," said Dick one morning, after 
finishing his toilet, " this is the chance of 
your life to go around among your own people 
and see how they live. Have you met any of 
them ? " 

" Yas, suh, I 's seen some of 'em. But I 
don' keer nuffin fer 'em, suh. Dey 're dif- 
fe'nt f'm de niggers down ou' way. Dey 
'lows dey 're free, but dey ain' got sense 'nuff 
ter know dey ain' half as well off as dey would 
be down Souf, whar dey 'd be 'predated. " 

When two weeks had passed without any 
apparent effect of evil example upon Grandi- 
son, Dick resolved to go on to Boston, where 
he thought the atmosphere might prove more 
favorable to his ends. After he had been at 
the Revere House for a day or two without 
losing Grandison, he decided upon slightly 
different tactics. 

Having ascertained from a city directory 
the addresses of several well-known abolition- 
ists, he wrote them each a letter something 
like this : — 



186 the passing of grandison 

Dear Friend and Brother : — 
A wicked slaveholder from Kentucky, 
stopping* at the Kevere House, has dared to 
insult the liberty-loving people of Boston by 
bringing his slave into their midst. Shall 
this be tolerated? Or shall steps be taken 
in the name of liberty to rescue a fellow-man 
from bondage? For obvious reasons I can 
only sign myself, 

A Friend of Humanity. 

That his letter might have an opportunity 
to prove effective, Dick made it a point to 
send Grandison away from the hotel on vari- 
ous errands. On one of these occasions Dick 
watched him for quite a distance down the 
street. Grandison had scarcely left the hotel 
when a long-haired, sharp-featured man came 
out behind him, followed him, soon overtook 
him, and kept along beside him until they 
turned the next corner. Dick's hopes were 
roused by this spectacle, but sank correspond- 
ingly when Grandison returned to the hotel. 
As Grandison said nothing about the en- 
counter, Dick hoped there might be some 
self-consciousness behind this unexpected reti- 
cence, the results of which might develop 
later on. 



THE PASSING OF GBANDISON 187 

But Grandison was on hand again when 
his master came back to the hotel at night, 
and was in attendance again in the morning, 
with hot water, to assist at his master's toilet. 
Dick sent him on further errands from day to 
day, and upon one occasion came squarely 
up to him — inadvertently of course — while 
Grandison was engaged in conversation with 
a young white man in clerical garb. When 
Grandison saw Dick approaching, he edged 
away from the preacher and hastened toward 
his master, with a very evident expression of 
relief upon his countenance. 

" Mars Dick," he said, " dese yer abolition- 
ers is jes' pesterin' de life out er me tryin' 
ter git me ter run away. I don' pay no 'ten- 
tion ter 'em, but dey riles me so sometimes 
dat I 'm feared I '11 hit some of 'em some er 
dese days, an' dat mought git me inter trouble. 
I ain' said nuffin' ter you 'bout it, Mars Dick, 
f er I did n' wanter 'sturb yo' min' ; but I don' 
like it, suh ; no, suh, I don' ! Is we gwine 
back home 'f o' long, Mars Dick ? '' 

" We '11 be going back soon enough," re- 
plied Dick somewhat shortly, while he in- 
wardly cursed the stupidity of a slave who 
could be free and would not, and registered 



188 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

a secret vow that if he were unable to get rid 
of Grandison without assassinating him, and 
were therefore compelled to take him back to 
Kentucky, he would see that Grandison got a 
taste of an article of slavery that would make 
him regret his wasted opportunities. Mean- 
while he determined to tempt his servant yet 
more strongly. 

"Grandison/' he said next morning, "I'm 
going away for a day or two, but I shall leave 
you here. I shall lock up a hundred dollars 
in this drawer and give you the key. If you 
need any of it, use it and enjoy yourself, — 
spend it all if you like, — for this is probably 
the last chance you '11 have for some time to 
be in a free State, and you 'd better enjoy 
your liberty while you may." 

When he came back a couple of days later 
and found the faithful Grandison at his post, 
and the hundred dollars intact, Dick felt seri- 
ously annoyed. His vexation was increased 
by the fact that he could not express his 
feelings adequately. He did not even scold 
Grandison ; how could he, indeed, find fault 
with one who so sensibly recognized his true 
place in the economy of civilization, and kept 
it with such touching fidelity ? 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 189 

" I can't say a thing to him/' groaned 
Dick. " He deserves a leather medal, made 
out of his own hide tanned. I reckon I'll 
write to father and let him know what a 
model servant he has given me." 

He wrote his father a letter which made the 
colonel swell with pride and pleasure. " I 
really think," the colonel observed to one of 
his friends, "that Dick ought to have the 
nigger interviewed by the Boston papers, so 
that they may see how contented and happy 
our darkeys really are." 

Dick also wrote a long letter to Charity 
Lomax, in which he said, among many other 
things, that if she knew how hard he was 
working, and under what difficulties, to ac- 
complish something serious for her sake, she 
would no longer keep him in suspense, but 
overwhelm him with love and admiration. 

Having thus exhausted without result the 
more obvious methods of getting rid of Gran- 
dison, and diplomacy having also proved a 
failure, Dick was forced to consider more 
radical measures. Of course he might run 
away himself, and abandon Grandison, but 
this would be merely to leave him in the 
United States, where he was still a slave, and 



190 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

where, with his notions of loyalty, he would 
speedily be reclaimed. It was necessary, in 
order to accomplish the purpose of his trip to 
the North, to leave Grandison permanently in 
Canada, where he would be legally free. 

" I might extend my trip to Canada," he 
reflected, " but that would be too palpable. 
I have it ! I '11 visit Niagara Falls on the 
way home, and lose him on the Canada side. 
When he once realizes that he is actually 
free, I '11 warrant that he '11 stay." 

So the next day saw them westward bound, 
and in due course of time, by the somewhat 
slow conveyances of the period, they found 
themselves at Niagara. Dick walked and 
drove about the Falls for several days, taking 
Grandison along with him on most occasions. 
One morning they stood on the Canadian 
side, watching the wild whirl of the waters 
below them. 

" Grandison," said Dick, raising his voice 
above the roar of the cataract, " do you know 
where you are now ? " 

" I 's wid you, Mars Dick ; dat 's all I 
keers." 

" You are now in Canada, Grandison, where 
your people go when they run away from 



THE PASSING OF GBANDISON 191 

their masters. If you wished, Grandison, you 
might walk away from me this very minute, 
and I could not lay my hand upon you to 
take you back." 

Grandison looked around uneasily. 

" Let 's go back ober de ribber, Mars Dick. 
I 's feared I '11 lose you ovuh heah, an' den I 
won' hab no marster, an' won't nebber be 
able to git back home no mo'." 

Discouraged, but not yet hopeless, Dick 
said, a few minutes later, — 

" Grandison, I ? m going up the road a bit, 
to the inn over yonder. You stay here until 
I return. I'll not be gone a great while." 

Grandison's eyes opened wide and he 
looked somewhat fearful. 

" Is dey any er dem dadblasted abolitioners 
roun' heah, Mars Dick ? " 

" I don't imagine that there are," replied 
his master, hoping there might be. " But 
I 'm not afraid of your running away, Grandi- 
son. I only wish I were," he added to him- 
self. 

Dick walked leisurely down the road to 
where the whitewashed inn, built of stone, 
with true British solidity, loomed up through 
the trees by the roadside. Arrived there he 



192 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

ordered a glass of ale and a sandwich, and 
took a seat at a table by a window, from 
which he could see Grandison in the distance. 
For a while he hoped that the seed he had 
sown might have fallen on fertile ground, 
and that Grandison, relieved from the re- 
straining power of a master's eye, and find- 
ing himself in a free country, might get up 
and walk away ; but the hope was vain, for 
Grandison remained faithfully at his post, 
awaiting his master's return. He had seated 
himself on a broad flat stone, and, turning his 
eyes away from the grand and awe-inspiring 
spectacle that lay close at hand, was looking 
anxiously toward the inn where his master sat 
cursing his ill-timed fidelity. 

By and by a girl came into the room to 
serve his order, and Dick very naturally 
glanced at her ; and as she was young and 
pretty and ' remained in attendance, it was 
some minutes before he looked for Grandison. 
When he did so his faithful servant had dis- 
appeared. 

To pay his reckoning and go away without 
the change was a matter quickly accom- 
plished. Retracing his footsteps toward the 
Falls, he saw, to his great disgust, as he ap- 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 193 

proached the spot where he had left Grandi- 
son, the familiar form of his servant stretched 
out on the ground, his face to the sun, his 
mouth open, sleeping the time away, oblivious 
alike to the grandeur of the scenery, the 
thunderous roar of the cataract, or the insid- 
ious voice of sentiment. 

" Grandison," soliloquized his master, as he 
stood gazing down at his ebony encumbrance, 
" I do not deserve to be an American citizen ; 
I ought not to have the advantages I possess 
over you ; and I certainly am not worthy of 
Charity Lomax, if I am not smart enough to 
get rid of you. I have an idea ! You shall 
yet be free, and I will be the instrument of 
your deliverance. Sleep on, faithful and af- 
fectionate servitor, and dream of the blue 
grass and the bright skies of old Kentucky, 
for it is only in your dreams that you will 
ever see them again ! " 

Dick retraced his footsteps towards the 
inn. The young woman chanced to look out 
of the window and saw the handsome young 
gentleman she had waited on a few minutes 
before, standing in the road a short distance 
away, apparently engaged in earnest conversa- 
tion with a colored man employed as hostler 



194 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

for the inn. She thouo-ht she saw something 
pass from the white man to the other, but at 
that moment her duties called her away from 
the window, and when she looked out again 
the young gentleman had disappeared, and 
the hostler, with two other young men of the 
neighborhood, one white and one colored, 
were walking rapidly towards the Falls. 



IV 

Dick made the journey homeward alone, 
and as rapidly as the conveyances of the day 
would permit. As he drew near home his 
conduct in o*oin£ back without Grandison 
took on a more serious aspect than it had 
borne at any previous time, and although he 
had prepared the colonel by a letter sent 
several days ahead, there was still the pro- 
spect of a bad quarter of an hour with him ; 
not, indeed, that his father would upbraid 
him, but he was likely to make searching in- 
quiries. And notwithstanding the vein of 
quiet recklessness that had carried Dick 
through his preposterous scheme, he was a 
very poor liar, having rarely had occasion or 
inclination to tell anything but the truth. 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 195 

Any reluctance to meet his father was more 
than offset, however, by a stronger force draw- 
ing him homeward, for Charity Lomax must 
lono- since haye returned from her visit to her 
aunt in Tennessee. 

Dick got off easier than he had expected. 
He told a straight story, and a truthful one, 
so far as it went. 

The colonel raged at first, but rage soon 
subsided into anger, and anger moderated 
into annoyance, and annoyance into a sort 
of garrulous sense of injury. The colonel 
thought he had been hardly used ; he had 
trusted this negro, and he had broken faith. 
Yet, after all, he did not blame Grandison 
so much as he did the abolitionists, who were 
undoubtedly at the bottom of it. 

As for Charity Lomax, Dick told her, pri- 
yately of course, that he had run his father's 
man, Grandison, off to Canada, and left him 
there. 

" Oh, Dick," she had said with shuddering 
alarm, " what haye you done ? If they knew 
it they'd send you to the penitentiary, like 
they did that Yankee." 

" But they don't know it," he had replied 
seriously; adding, with an injured tone, "you 



196 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

don't seem to appreciate my heroism like 
you did that of the Yankee ; perhaps it 's 
because I was n't caught and sent to the 
penitentiary. I thought you wanted me to 
do it." 

" Why, Dick Owens ! ' she exclaimed. 
" You know I never dreamed of any such 
outrageous proceeding. 

" But I presume I '11 have to marry you/' 
she concluded, after some insistence on Dick's 
part, " if only to take care of you. You 
are too reckless for anything ; and a man 
who goes chasing all over the North, being 
entertained by New York and Boston society 
and having negroes to throw away, needs 
some one to look after him." 

" It 's a most remarkable thing," replied 
Dick fervently, " that your views correspond 
exactly with my profoundest convictions. It 
proves beyond question that we were made 
for one another." 

They were married three weeks later. As 
each of them had just returned from a jour- 
ney, they spent their honeymoon at home. 

A week after the wedding they were seated, 
one afternoon, on the piazza of the colonel's 



THE PASSING OF GEANDISON 197 

house, where Dick had taken his bride, when 
a negro from the yard ran down the lane and 
threw open the big gate for the colonel's 
buggy to enter. The colonel was not alone. 
Beside him, ragged and travel-stained, bowed 
with weariness, and upon his face a haggard 
look that told of hardship and privation, sat 
the lost Grandison. 

The colonel alighted at the steps. 

" Take the lines, Tom," he said to the 
man who had opened the gate, " and drive 
round to the barn. Help Grandison down, — 
poor devil, he 's so stiff he can hardly move ! 
— and get a tub of water and wash him and 
rub him down, and feed him, and give him 
a big drink of whiskey, and then let him 
come round and see his young master and his 
new mistress." 

The colonel's face wore an expression com- 
pounded of joy and indignation, — joy at 
the restoration of a valuable piece of pro- 
perty ; indignation for reasons he proceeded 
to state. 

" It 's astounding, the depths of depravity 
the human heart is capable of ! I was com- 
ing along the road three miles away, when 
I heard some one call me from the roadside. 



198 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

I pulled up the mare, and who should come 
out of the woods but Grandison. The poor 
nigger could hardly crawl along, with the 
help of a broken limb. I was never more 
astonished in my life. You could have 
knocked me down with a feather. He 
seemed pretty far gone, — he could hardly 
talk above a whisper, — and I had to give him 
a mouthful of whiskey to brace him up so he 
could tell his story. It 's just as I thought 
from the beginning, Dick ; Grandison had no 
notion of running away ; he knew when he was 
well off, and where his friends were. All the 
persuasions of abolition liars and runaway 
niggers did not move him. But the desper- 
ation of those fanatics knew no bounds ; 
their guilty consciences gave them no rest. 
They got the notion somehow that Grandison 
belonged to a nigger-catcher, and had been 
brought North as a spy to help capture un- 
grateful runaway servants. They actually 
kidnaped him — just think of it ! — and 
gagged him and bound him and threw him 
rudely into a wagon, and carried him into 
the gloomy depths of a Canadian forest, and 
locked him in a lonely hut, and fed him on 
bread and water for three weeks. One of the 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 199 

scoundrels wanted to kill him, and persuaded 
the others that it ought to be done ; but they 
got to quarreling about how they should do 
it, and before they had their minds made up 
Grandison escaped, and, keeping his back 
steadily to the North Star, made his way, 
after suffering incredible hardships, back to 
the old plantation, back to his master, his 
friends, and his home. Why, it 's as good as 
one of Scott's novels ! Mr. Simms or some 
other one of our Southern authors ought to 
write it up." 

" Don't you think, sir," suggested Dick, 
who had calmly smoked his cigar throughout 
the colonel's animated recital, " that that 
kidnaping yarn sounds a little improbable ? 
Is n't there some more likely explanation ? " 

" Nonsense, Dick ; it 's the gospel truth ! 
Those infernal abolitionists are capable of 
anything — everything ! Just think of their 
locking the poor, faithful nigger up, beating 
him, kicking him, depriving him of his liberty, 
keeping him on bread and water for three 
long, lonesome weeks, and he all the time 
pining for the old plantation ! " 

There were almost tears in the colonel's 
eyes at the picture of Grandison's sufferings 



200 THE PASSING OF GBANDISON 

that he conjured up. Dick still professed 
to be slightly skeptical, and met Charity's 
severely questioning eye with bland uncon- 
sciousness. 

The colonel killed the fatted calf for 
Grandison, and for two or three weeks the 
returned wanderer's life was a slave's dream 
of pleasure. His fame spread throughout 
the county, and the colonel gave him a per- 
manent place among the house servants, 
where he could always have him conveniently 
at hand to relate his adventures to admiring 
visitors. 

About three weeks after Grandison's return 
the colonel's faith in sable humanity was 
rudely shaken, and its foundations almost 
broken up. He came near losing his belief 
in the fidelity of the negro to his master, — 
the servile virtue most highly prized and 
most sedulously cultivated by the colonel and 
his kind. One Monday morning Grandison 
was missing. And not only Grandison, but 
his wife, Betty the maid ; his mother, aunt 
Eunice ; his father, uncle Ike ; his brothers, 
Tom and John, and his little sister Elsie, 
were likewise absent from the plantation ; 



THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 201 

and a hurried search and inquiry in the 
neighborhood resulted in no information as 
to their whereabouts. So much valuable 
property could not be lost without an effort 
to recover it, and the wholesale nature of the 
transaction carried consternation to the hearts 
of those whose ledgers were chiefly bound in 
black. Extremely energetic measures were 
taken by the colonel and his friends. The 
fugitives were traced, and followed from point 
to point, on their northward run through 
Ohio. Several times the hunters were close 
upon their heels, but the magnitude of the 
escaping party begot unusual vigilance on 
the part of those who sympathized with the 
fugitives, and strangely enough, the under- 
ground railroad seemed to have had its tracks 
cleared and signals set for this particular 
train. Once, twice, the colonel thought he 
had them, but they slipped through his 
fingers. 

One last glimpse he caught of his vanishing 
property, as he stood, accompanied by a United 
States marshal, on a wharf at a port on the 
south shore of Lake Erie. On the stern of a 
small steamboat which was receding rapidly 
from the wharf, with her nose pointing toward 



202 THE PASSING OF GRANDISON 

Canada, there stood a group of familiar dark 
faces, and the look they cast backward was 
not one of longing for the fleshpots of Egypt. 
The colonel saw Grandison point him out to 
one of the crew of the vessel, who waved 
his hand derisively toward the colonel. The 
latter shook his fist impotently — and the 
incident was closed. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 



Uncle Wellington Braboy was so 
deeply absorbed in thought as he walked 
slowly homeward from the weekly meeting 
of the Union League, that he let his pipe go 
out, a fact of which he remained oblivious 
until he had reached the little frame house 
in the suburbs of Pates ville, where he lived 
with aunt Milly, his wife. On this particular 
occasion the club had been addressed by a 
visiting brother from the North, Professor 
Patterson, a tall, well-formed mulatto, who 
wore a perfectly fitting suit of broadcloth, a 
shiny silk hat, and linen of dazzling whiteness, 
— in short, a gentleman of such distinguished 
appearance that the doors and windows of the 
offices and stores on Front Street were filled 
with curious observers as he passed through 
that thoroughfare in the early part of the 
day. This polished stranger was a travel- 
ing organizer of Masonic lodges, but he also 



204 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

claimed to be a high officer in the Union 
League, and had been invited to lecture be- 
fore the local chapter of that organization at 
Patesville. 

The lecture had been largely attended, and 
uncle Wellington Braboy had occupied a seat 
just in front of the platform. The subject of 
the lecture was " The Mental, Moral, Physical, 
Political, Social, and Financial Improvement 
of the Negro Race in America," a theme much 
dwelt upon, with slight variations, by colored 
orators. For to this struggling people, then 
as now, the problem of their uncertain present 
and their doubtful future was the chief con- 
cern of life. The period was the hopeful 
one. The Federal Government retained 
some vestige of authority in the South, and 
the newly emancipated race cherished the 
delusion that under the Constitution, that 
enduring rock on which our liberties are 
founded, and under the equal laws it pur- 
ported to guarantee, they would enter upon 
the era of freedom and opportunity which 
their Northern friends had inaugurated with 
such solemn sanctions. The speaker pictured 
in eloquent language the state of ideal equal- 
ity and happiness enjoyed by colored people 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 205 

at the North : how they sent their children 
to school with the white children ; how they 
sat by white people in the churches and thea- 
tres, ate with them in the public restaurants, 
and buried their dead in the same cemeteries. 
The professor waxed eloquent with the de- 
velopment of his theme, and, as a finishing 
touch to an alluring picture, assured the ex- 
cited audience that the intermarriage of the 
races was common, and that he himself had 
espoused a white woman. 

Uncle Wellington Braboy was a deeply in- 
terested listener. He had heard something 
of these facts before, but his information had 
always come in such vague and questionable 
shape that he had paid little attention to it. 
He knew that the Yankees had freed the 
slaves, and that runaway negroes had always 
gone to the North to seek liberty ; any such 
equality, however, as the visiting brother had 
depicted, was more than uncle Wellington 
had ever conceived as actually existing any- 
where in the world. At first he felt inclined 
to doubt the truth of the speaker's statements ; 
but the cut of his clothes, the eloquence of 
his language, and the flowing length of his 
whiskers, were so far superior to anything 



206 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

uncle Wellington had ever met among the 
colored people of his native State, that he felt 
irresistibly impelled to the conviction that no- 
thing less than the advantages claimed for the 
North by the visiting brother could have pro- 
duced such an exquisite flower of civilization. 
Any lingering doubts uncle Wellington may 
have felt were entirely dispelled by the courtly 
bow and cordial grasp of the hand with which 
the visiting brother acknowledged the con- 
gratulations showered upon him by the audi- 
ence at the close of his address. 

The more uncle Wellington's mind dwelt 
upon the professor's speech, the more attrac- 
tive seemed the picture of Northern life pre- 
sented. Uncle Wellington possessed in large 
measure the imaginative faculty so freely be- 
stowed by nature upon the race from which 
the darker half of his blood was drawn. He 
had indulged in occasional day-dreams of an 
ideal state of social equality, but his wildest 
flights of fancy had never located it nearer 
than heaven, and he had felt some misgivings 
about its practical working even there. Its 
desirability he had never doubted, and the 
speech of the evening before had given a 
local habitation and a name to the forms his 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 207 

imagination had bodied forth. Giving full 
rein to his fancy, he saw in the North a land 
flowing with milk and honey, — a land peo- 
pled by noble men and beautiful women, 
among whom colored men and women moved 
with the ease and grace of acknowledged 
right. Then he placed himself in the fore- 
ground of the picture. What a fine figure he 
would have made in the world if he had been 
born at the free North ! He imagined him- 
self dressed like the professor, and passing 
the contribution-box in a white church ; and 
most pleasant of his dreams, and the hardest 
to realize as possible, was that of the gracious 
white lady he might have called wife. Uncle 
Wellington was a mulatto, and his features 
were those of his white father, though tinged 
with the hue of his mother's race ; and as 
he lifted the kerosene lamp at evening, and 
took a long look at his image in the little 
mirror over the mantelpiece, he said to him- 
self that he was a very good-looking man, 
and could have adorned a much higher sphere 
in life than that in which the accident of 
birth had placed him. He fell asleep and 
dreamed that he lived in a two-story brick 
house, with a spacious flower garden in front, 



208 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

the whole inclosed by a high iron fence ; that 
he kept a carriage and servants, and never did 
a stroke of work. This was the highest style 
of living in Patesville, and he could conceive 
of nothing finer. 

Uncle Wellington slept later than usual the 
next morning, and the sunlight was pouring 
in at the open window of the bedroom, when 
his dreams were interrupted by the voice of 
his wife, in tones meant to be harsh, but 
which no ordinary degree of passion could 
rob of their native unctuousness. 

" Git up f'm dere, you lazy, good-fuh-nuf- 
fin' nigger ! Is you gwine ter sleep all de 
mawnin' ? I 's ti'ed er dis yer runnin' 'roun' 
all night an' den sleepin' all day. You won't 
git dat tater patch hoed ovuh ter-day 'less'n 
you git up f'm dere an' git at it." 

Uncle Wellington rolled over, yawned cav- 
ernously, stretched himself, and with a mut- 
tered protest got out of bed and put on his 
clothes. Aunt Milly had prepared a smoking 
breakfast of hominy and fried bacon, the odor 
of which was very grateful to his nostrils. 

" Is breakfus' done ready ? ' : he inquired, 
tentatively, as he came into the kitchen and 
glanced at the table. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 209 

" No, it ain't ready, an' 't ain't gwine ter be 
ready 'tel you tote dat wood an' water in," re- 
plied aunt Milly severely, as she poured two 
teacups of boiling water on two tablespoon- 
f uls of ground coffee. 

Uncle Wellington went down to the spring 
and got U pail of water, after which he 
brought in some oak logs for the fireplace 
and some lightwood for kindling. Then he 
drew a chair towards the table and started to 
sit down. 

" Wonduh what 's de matter wid you dis 
mawnin' anyhow," remarked aunt Milly. 
" You must 'a' be'n up ter some devilment 
las' night, fer yo' recommemb'ance is so po' 
dat you f us' fergit ter git up, an' den fergit 
ter wash yo' face an' hands fo' you set down 
ter de table. I don' 'low nobody ter eat at 
my table dat a- way." 

" I don' see no use 'n washin' 'em so 
much," replied Wellington wearily. " Dey 
gits dirty ag'in right off, an' den you got ter 
wash 'em ovuh ag'in ; it 's jes' pilin' up wuk 
what don' fetch in nuffin'. De dirt don' 
show nohow, 'n' I don' see no advantage in 
bein' black, ef you got to keep on washin' 
yo' face 'n' han's jes' lack w'ite folks." He 



210 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

nevertheless performed his ablutions in a per- 
functory way, and resumed his seat at the 
breakfast-table. 

" Ole 'oman," he asked, after the edge of 
his appetite had been taken off, " how would 
you lack ter live at de Norf ? " 

" I dunno naffin' 'bout de Norf," replied 
aunt Milly. " It 's hard nuff ter git erlong 
heah, whar we knows all erbout it." 

" De brother what 'dressed de meetin' las' 
night say dat de wages at de Norf is twicet 
ez big ez dey is heah." 

" You could make a sight mo' wages heah 
ef you'd 'ten' ter yo' wuk better," replied 
aunt Milly. 

Uncle Wellington ignored this personality, 
and continued, " An' he say de cullud folks 
got all de privileges er de w'ite folks, — 
dat dey chillen goes ter school tergedder, 
dat dey sets on same seats in chu'ch, an' 
sarves on jury, 'n' rides on de kyars an' steam- 
boats wid de w'ite folks, an' eats at de fus' 
table." 

" Dat 'u'd suit you," chuckled aunt Milly, 
" an' you 'd stay dere fer de secon' table, too. 
How dis man know 'bout all dis yer foolis'- 
ness?" she asked incredulously. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 211 

" He come f'm de Norf," said uncle Wel- 
lington, " an' he 'speunced it all hisse'f ." 

" Well, he can't make me b'lieve it," she 
rejoined, with a shake of her head. 

" An' you would n' lack ter go up dere 
an' 'joy all dese privileges?' 1 asked uncle 
Wellington, with some degree of earnest- 
ness. 

The old woman laughed until her sides 
shook. " Who gwine ter take me up dere ? " 
she inquired. 

" You got de money yo'se'f ." 

" I ain' got no money fer ter was'e," she 
replied shortly, becoming serious at once ; 
and with that the subject was dropped. 

Uncle Wellington pulled a hoe from under 
the house, and took his way wearily to the 
potato patch. He did not feel like working, 
but aunt Milly was the undisputed head of 
the establishment, and he did not dare to 
openly neglect his work. In fact, he re- 
garded work at any time as a disagreeable 
necessity to be avoided as much as possi- 
ble. 

His wife was cast in a different mould. 
Externally she would have impressed the 
casual observer as a neat, well-preserved, and 



212 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

good-looking black woman, of middle age, 
every curve of whose ample figure — and 
her figure was all curves — was suggestive 
of repose. So far from being indolent, or 
even deliberate in her movements, she was 
the most active and energetic woman in the 
town. She went through the physical exer- 
cises of a prayer-meeting with astonishing 
vi^or. It was exhilarating to see her wash a 
shirt, and a study to watch her do it up. A 
quick jerk shook out the dampened garment ; 
one pass of her ample palm spread it over the 
ironing-board, and a few well-directed strokes 
with the iron accomplished what would have 
occupied the ordinary laundress for half an 
hour. 

To this uncommon, and in uncle Welling- 
ton's opinion unnecessary and unnatural ac- 
tivity, his own habits were a steady protest. 
If aunt Milly had been willing to support 
him in idleness, he would have acquiesced 
without a murmur in her habits of industry. 
This she would not do, and, moreover, in- 
sisted on his working at least half the time. 
If she had invested the proceeds of her labor 
in rich food and fine clothing, he might have 
endured it better; but to her passion for 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 213 

work was added a most detestable thrift. 
She absolutely refused to pay for Wellington's 
clothes, and required him to furnish a certain 
proportion of the family supplies. Her sav- 
ings were carefully put by, and with them 
she had bought and paid for the modest cot- 
tage which she and her husband occupied. 
Under her careful hand it was always neat 
and clean ; in summer the little yard was gay 
with bright-colored flowers, and woe to the 
heedless pickaninny who should stray into her 
yard and pluck a rose or a verbena ! In a 
stout oaken chest under her bed she kept a 
capacious stocking, into which flowed a steady 
stream of fractional currency. She carried 
the key to this chest in her pocket, a pro- 
ceeding regarded by uncle Wellington with 
no little disfavor. He was of the opinion — 
an opinion he would not have dared to assert 
in her presence — that his wife's earnings 
were his own property ; and he looked upon 
this stocking as a drunkard's wife might re- 
gard the saloon which absorbed her husband's 
wages. 

Uncle Wellington hurried over the potato 
patch on the morning of the conversation 
above recorded, and as soon as he saw aunt 



214 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

Milly go away with a basket of clothes on 
her head, returned to the house, put on his 
coat, and went uptown. 

He directed his steps to a small frame 
building fronting on the main street of the 
village, at a point where the street was inter- 
sected by one of the several creeks mean- 
dering through the town, cooling the air, 
providing numerous swimming-holes for the 
amphibious small boy, and furnishing water- 
power for grist-mills and saw-mills. The rear 
of the building rested on long brick pillars, 
built up from the bottom of the steep bank 
of the creek, while the front was level with 
the street. This was the office of Mr. Mat- 
thew Wright, the sole representative of the 
colored race at the bar of Chinquapin County. 
Mr. Wright came of an " old issue '" free 
colored family, in which, though the negro 
blood was present in an attenuated strain, a 
line of free ancestry could be traced beyond 
the Revolutionary War. He had enjoyed 
exceptional opportunities, and enjoyed the 
distinction of being the first, and for a long 
time the only colored lawyer in North Caro- 
lina. His services were frequently called into 
requisition by impecunious people of his own 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 215 

race; when they had money they went to 
white lawyers, who, they shrewdly conjec- 
tured, would have more influence with judge 
or jury than a colored lawyer, however able. 

Uncle Wellington found Mr. Wright in his 
office. Having inquired after the health of 
the lawyer's family and all his relations in 
detail, uncle Wellington asked for a profes- 
sional opinion. 

" Mistah Wright, ef a man's wife got 
money, whose money is dat bef o' de law — 
his'n er her'n ? " 

The lawyer put on his professional air, and 
replied : — 

" Under the common law, which in default 
of special legislative enactment is the law of 
North Carolina, the personal property of the 
wife belongs to her husband." 

"But dat don' jes' tech de p'int, suh. I 
wuz axin' 'bout money." 

" You see, uncle Wellington, your educa- 
tion has not rendered you familiar with legal 
phraseology. The term 6 personal property ' 
or i estate ' embraces, according to Blackstone, 
all property other than land, and therefore 
includes money. Any money a man's wife 
has is his, constructively, and will be recog- 



216 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

nized as his actually, as soon as he can secure 
possession of it." 

" Dat is ter say, suh — my eddication don' 
quite 'low me ter understan' dat — dat is ter 
say — 

" That is to say, it 's yours when you get 
it. It is n't yours so that the law will help 
you get it ; but on the other hand, when you 
once lay your hands on it, it is yours so that 
the law won't take it away from you." 

Uncle Wellington nodded to express his 
full comprehension of the law as expounded 
by Mr. Wright, but scratched his head in 
a way that expressed some disappointment. 
The law seemed to wobble. Instead of en- 
abling him to stand up fearlessly and de- 
mand his own, it threw him back upon his 
own efforts ; and the prospect of his being 
able to overpower or outwit aunt Milly by 
any ordinary means was very poor. 

He did not leave the office, but hung 
around awhile as though there were some- 
thing further he wished to speak about. 
Finally, after some discursive remarks about 
the crops and politics, he asked, in an off- 
hand, disinterested manner, as though the 
thought had just occurred to him : — 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 217 

" Mistak Wright, w'ile 's we 're talkin' 'bout 
law matters, what do it cos' ter git a defoce ? " 

" That depends upon circumstances. It 
is n't altogether a matter of expense. Have 
you and aunt Milly been having trouble ? ' 

" Oh no, suh ; I was jes' a-wond'rin'." 

" You see," continued the lawyer, who was 
fond of talking, and had nothing else to do 
for the moment, " a divorce is not an easy 
thing to get in this State under any circum- 
stances. It used to be the law that divorce 
could be granted only by special act of the 
legislature ; and it is but recently that the 
subject has been relegated to the jurisdiction 
of the courts." 

Uncle Wellington understood a part of 
this, but the answer had not been exactly to 
the point in his mind. 

" S'pos'n', den, jes' fer de argyment, me an' 
my ole 'oman sh'd fall out en wanter separate, 
how could I git a defoce ? " 

" That would depend on what you quar- 
reled about. .It 's pretty hard work to answer 
general questions in a particular way. If you 
merely wished to separate, it would n't be 
necessary to get a divorce ; but if you should 
want to marry again, you would have to be 



218 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

divorced, or else you would be guilty of 
bigamy, and could be sent to the penitentiary. 
But, by the way, uncle Wellington, when 
were you married ? ' 

" I got married 'fo' de wah, when I was 
livin' down on Rockfish Creek." 

" When you were in slavery ? ' 

" Yas, suh." 

" Did you have your marriage registered 
after the surrender ? " 

" No, suh ; never knowed nuffin' 'bout dat." 

After the war, in North Carolina and other 
States, the freed people who had sustained 
to each other the relation of husband and 
wife as it existed among slaves, were required 
by law to register their consent to continue 
in the marriage relation. By this simple expe- 
dient their former marriages of convenience 
received the sanction of law, and their chil- 
dren the seal of legitimacy. In many cases, 
however, where the parties lived in districts 
remote from the larger towns, the ceremony 
was neglected, or never heard of by the 
freedmen. 

"Well," said the lawyer, " if that is the case, 
and you and aunt Milly should disagree, it 
wouldn't be necessary for you to get a divorce, 






UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 219 

even if you should want to marry again. You 
were never legally married." 

So Milly ain't my lawful wife, den ? ' 
She may be your wife in one sense of the 
word, but not in such a sense as to render 
you liable to punishment for bigamy if you 
should marry another woman. But I hope 
you will never want to do anything of the 
kind, for you have a very good wife now." 

Uncle Wellington went away thoughtfully, 
but with a feeling of unaccustomed lightness 
and freedom. He had not felt so free since 
the memorable day when he had first heard of 
the Emancipation Proclamation. On leaving 
the lawyer's office, he called at the workshop 
of one of his friends, Peter Williams, a shoe- 
maker by trade, who had a brother living in 
Ohio. 

"Is you hearn f'm Sam lately?' uncle 
Wellington inquired, after the conversation 
had drifted through the usual generalities. 

"His mammy got er letter f'm 'im las' week; 
he 's livin' in de town er Groveland now." 

" How 's he gittin' on ? " 

" He says he gittin' on monst'us well. He 
'low ez how he make five dollars a day w'ite- 
washin', an' have all he kin do." 



220 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

The shoemaker related various details of 
his brother's prosperity, and uncle Welling- 
ton returned home in a very thoughtful mood, 
revolving in his mind a plan of future action. 
This plan had been vaguely assuming form 
ever since the professor's lecture, and the 
events of the morning had brought out the 
detail in bold relief. 

Two days after the conversation with the 
shoemaker, aunt Milly went, in the afternoon, 
to visit a sister of hers who lived several miles 
out in the country. During her absence, 
which lasted until nightfall, uncle Welling- 
ton went uptown and purchased a cheap oil- 
cloth valise from a shrewd son of Israel, 
who had penetrated to this locality with a 
stock of notions and cheap clothing. Uncle 
Wellington had his purchase done up in 
brown paper, and took the parcel under his 
arm. Arrived at home he unwrapped the 
valise, and thrust into its capacious jaws his 
best suit of clothes, some underwear, and a 
few other small articles for personal use and 
adornment. Then he carried the valise out 
into the yard, and, first looking cautiously 
around to see if there was any one in sight, 
concealed it in a clump of bushes in a corner 
of the yard. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 221 

It may be inferred from this proceeding 
that uncle Wellington was preparing for a 
step of some consequence. In fact, he had 
fully made up his mind to go to the North ; 
but he still lacked the most important requi- 
site for traveling with comfort, namely, the 
money to pay his expenses. The idea of 
tramping the distance which separated him 
from the promised land of liberty and equality 
had never occurred to him. When a slave, 
he had several times been importuned by fel- 
low servants to join them in the attempt to 
escape from bondage, but he had never 
wanted his freedom badly enough to walk a 
thousand miles for it ; if he could have 
gone to Canada by stage-coach, or by rail, or 
on horseback, with stops for regular meals, 
he would probably have undertaken the trip. 
The funds he now needed for his journey 
were in aunt Milly's chest. He had thought 
a great deal about his right to this money. 
It was his wife's savings, and he had never 
dared to dispute, openly, her right to exercise 
exclusive control over what she earned ; but 
the lawyer had assured him of his right to the 
money, of which he was already constructively 
in possession, and he had therefore deter- 



222 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

mined to possess himself actually of the 
coveted stocking. It was impracticable for 
him to get the key of the chest. Aunt Milly 
kept it in her pocket by day and under her 
pillow at night. She was a light sleeper, and, 
if not awakened by the abstraction of the 
key, would certainly have been disturbed by 
the unlocking of the chest. But one alterna- 
tive remained, and that was to break open the 
chest in her absence. 

There was a revival in progress at the col- 
ored Methodist church. Aunt Milly was as 
energetic in her religion as in other respects, 
and had not missed a single one of the meet- 
ings. She returned at nightfall from her 
visit to the country and prepared a frugal 
supper. Uncle Wellington did not eat as 
heartily as usual. Aunt Milly perceived his 
want of appetite, and spoke of it. He ex- 
plained it by saying that he did not feel very 
well. 

" Is you gwine ter chu'ch ter-night ? ' 
inquired his wife. 

" I reckon I '11 stay home an' go ter bed," 
he replied. " I ain't be'n feelin' well dis 
evening an' I 'spec' I better git a good night's 
res'." 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 223 

" Well, you kin stay ef you mineter. Good 
preaclrin' 'u'd make you feel better, but ef 
you ain't gwine, don' fergit ter tote in some 
wood an' lighterd 'fo' you go ter bed. De 
moon is shinin' bright, an' you can't have no 
'scuse 'bout not bein' able ter see." 

Uncle Wellington followed her out to the 
gate, and watched her receding form until it 
disappeared in the distance. Then he re- 
entered the house with a quick step, and tak- 
ing a hatchet from a corner of the room, drew 
the chest from under the bed. As he applied 
the hatchet to the fastenings, a thought 
struck him, and by the flickering light of the 
pine-knot blazing on the hearth, a look of 
hesitation might have been seen to take the 
place of the determined expression his face 
had worn up to that time. He had argued 
himself into the belief that his present action 
was lawful and justifiable. Though this con- 
viction had not prevented him from trembling 
in every limb, as though he were committing 
a mere vulgar theft, it had still nerved him to 
the deed. Now even his moral courage began 
to weaken. The lawyer had told him that his 
wife's property was his own ; in taking it he 
was therefore only exercising his lawful right. 



224 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

But at the point of breaking open the chest, 
it occurred to him that he was taking this 
money in order to get away from aunt Milly, 
and that he justified his desertion of her by 
the lawyer's opinion that she was not his law- 
ful wife. If she was not his wife, then he had 
no right to take the money ; if she was his 
wife, he had no right to desert her, and would 
certainly have no right to marry another 
woman. His scheme was about to go to 
shipwreck on this rock, when another idea 
occurred to him. 

" De lawyer say dat in one sense er de word 
de ole 'oman is my wife, an' in anudder sense 
er de word she ain't my wife. Ef I goes ter 
de Norf an' marry a w'ite 'oman, I ain't com- 
mit no brigamy, 'caze in dat sense er de word 
she ain't my wife ; but ef I takes dis money, 
I ain't stealin' it, 'caze in dat sense er de word 
she is my wife. Dat 'splains all de trouble 
away." 

Having reached this ingenious conclusion, 
uncle Wellington applied the hatchet vigor- 
ously, soon loosened the fastenings of the 
chest, and with trembling hands extracted 
from its depths a capacious blue cotton stock- 
ing. He emptied the stocking on the table. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 225 

His first impulse was to take the whole, but 
again there arose in his mind a doubt — a 
very obtrusive, unreasonable doubt, but a 
doubt, nevertheless — of the absolute rectitude 
of his conduct ; and after a moment's hesita- 
tion he hurriedly counted the money — it 
was in bills of small denominations — and 
found it to be about two hundred and fifty 
dollars. He then divided it into two piles 
of one hundred and twenty-five dollars each. 
He put one pile into his pocket, returned the 
remainder to the stocking, and replaced it 
where he had found it. He then closed the 
chest and shoved it under the bed. After 
having arranged the fire so that it could 
safely be left burning, he took a last look 
around the room, and went out into the moon- 
light, locking the door behind him, and 
hanging the key on a nail in the wall, where 
his wife would be likely to look for it. He 
then secured his valise from behind the 
bushes, and left the yard. As he passed by 
the wood-pile, he said to himself : — 

" Well, I declar' ef I ain't done fergot ter 
tote in dat lighterd ; I reckon de ole 'oman, '11 
ha' ter fetch it in herse'f dis time." 

He hastened through the quiet streets, 



226 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

avoiding the few people who were abroad at 
that hour, and soon reached the railroad sta- 
tion, from which a North-bound train left at 
nine o'clock. He went around to the dark 
side of the train, and climbed into a second- 
class car, where he shrank into the darkest 
corner and turned his face away from the dim 
light of the single dirty lamp. There were 
no passengers in the car except one or two 
sleepy negroes, who had got on at some other 
station, and a white man who had gone into 
the car to smoke, accompanied by a gigantic 
bloodhound. 

Finally the train crept out of the station. 
From the window uncle Wellington looked 
out upon the familiar cabins and turpentine 
stills, the new barrel factory, the brickyard 
where he had once worked for some time ; 
and as the train rattled through the outskirts 
of the town, he saw gleaming in the moon- 
light the white headstones of the colored ceme- 
tery where his only daughter had been buried 
several years before. 

Presently the conductor came around. 
Uncle Wellington had not bought a ticket, 
and the conductor collected a cash fare. He 
was not acquainted with uncle Wellington, 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 227 

but had just had a drink at the saloon near 
the depot, and felt at peace with all man- 
kind. 

" Where are you going, uncle ? ' he in- 
quired carelessly. 

Uncle Wellington's face assumed the ashen 
hue which does duty for pallor in dusky 
countenances, and his knees began to tremble. 
Controlling his voice as well as he could, he 
replied that he was going up to Jonesboro^ 
the terminus of the railroad, to work for a 
gentleman at that place. He felt immensely 
relieved when the conductor pocketed the 
fare, picked up his lantern, and moved away. 
It was very unphilosophical and very absurd 
that a man who was only doing right should 
feel like a thief, shrink from the sight of 
other people, and lie instinctively. Fine dis- 
tinctions were not in uncle Wellington's line, 
but he was struck by the unreasonableness of 
his feelings, and still more by the discomfort 
they caused him. By and by, however, the 
motion of the train made him drowsy ; his 
thoughts all ran together in confusion ; and 
he fell asleep with his head on his valise, and 
one hand in his pocket, clasped tightly around 
the roll of money. 



228 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

II 

The train from Pittsburg drew into the 
Union Depot at Groveland, Ohio, one morn- 
ing in the spring of 187—, with bell ringing 
and engine puffing ; and from a smoking-car 
emerged the form of uncle Wellington Bra- 
boy, a little dusty and travel-stained, and with 
a sleepy look about his eyes. He mingled in 
the crowd, and, valise in hand, moved toward 
the main exit from the depot. There were 
several tracks to be crossed, and more than 
once a watchman snatched him out of the 
way of a baggage-truck, or a train backing 
into the depot. He at length reached the 
door, beyond which, and as near as the regu- 
lations would permit, stood a number of hack- 
men, vociferously soliciting patronage. One 
of them, a colored man, soon secured several 
passengers. As he closed the door after the 
last one he turned to uncle Wellington, who 
stood near him on the sidewalk, looking about 
irresolutely. 

" Is you goin' uptown ? " asked the hack- 
man, as he prepared to mount the box. 

" Yas, suh." 

" I '11 take you up f o' a quahtah, ef you 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 229 

want ter git up here an' ride on de box wid 



me." 



Uncle Wellington accepted the offer and 
mounted the box. The hackman whipped up 
his horses, the carriage climbed the steep hill 
leading up to the town, and the passengers 
inside were soon deposited at their hotels. 

" Whereabouts do you want to go ? " asked 
the hackman of uncle Wellington, when the 
carriage was emptied of its last passengers. 

" I want ter go ter Brer Sam Williams's," 
said Wellington. 

" What 's his street an' number ? ' 

Uncle Wellington did not know the street 
and number, and the hackman had to explain 
to him the mystery of numbered houses, to 
which he was a total stranger. 

" Where is he from ? " asked the hackman, 
" and what is his business ? " 

" He is f'm Norf Ca'lina," replied uncle 
Wellington, " an' makes his livin' w'ite- 
in . 

" I reckon I knows de man," said the 
hackman. "I 'spec' he's changed his name. 
De man I knows is name' Johnson. He 
b'longs ter my chu'ch. I 'm gwine out dat 
way ter git a passenger fer de ten o'clock 
train, an' I '11 take you by dere." 



230 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

They followed one of the least handsome 
streets of the city for more than a mile, 
turned into a cross street, and drew up before 
a small frame house, from the front of which 
a sign, painted in white upon a black back- 
ground, announced to the reading public, in 
letters inclined to each other at various an- 
gles, that whitewashing and kalsomining were 
" dun " there. A knock at the door brought 
out a slatternly looking colored woman. She 
had evidently been disturbed at her toilet, for 
she held a comb in one hand, and the hair on 
one side of her head stood out loosely, while 
on the other side it was braided close to her 
head. She called her husband, who proved 
to be the Patesville shoemaker's brother. 
The hackman introduced the traveler, whose 
name he had learned on the way out, collected 
his quarter, and drove away. 

Mr. Johnson, the shoemaker's brother, wel- 
comed uncle Wellington to Groveland, and 
listened with ea^er delight to the news of the 
old town, from which he himself had run 
away many years before, and followed the 
North Star to Groveland. He had changed 
his name from " Williams " to " Johnson," on 
account of the Fugitive Slave Law, which, 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 231 

at the time of his escape from bondage, had 
rendered it advisable for runaway slaves to 
court obscurity. After the war he had re- 
tained the adopted name. Mrs. Johnson pre- 
pared breakfast for her guest, who ate it with 
an appetite sharpened by his journey. After 
breakfast he went to bed, and slept until late 
in the afternoon. 

After supper Mr. Johnson took uncle Wel- 
lington to visit some of the neighbors who 
had come from North Carolina before the 
war. They all expressed much pleasure at 
meeting " Mr. Braboy," a title which at first 
sounded a little odd to uncle Wellington. 
At home he had been " Wellin'ton," " Brer 
Wellin'ton," or " uncle Wellin'ton ; " it was 
a novel experience to be called " Mister/' and 
he set it down, with secret satisfaction, as one 
of the first fruits of Northern liberty. 

" Would you lack ter look 'roun' de town 
a little ? " asked Mr. Johnson at breakfast 
next morning. " I ain' got no job dis mawn- 
in', an' I kin show you some er de sights." 

Uncle Wellington acquiesced in this ar- 
rangement, and they walked up to the cor- 
ner to the street-car line. In a few moments 
a car passed. Mr. Johnson jumped on the 



232 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

moving car, and uncle Wellington followed 
his example, at the risk of life or limb, as it 
was his first experience of street cars. 

There was only one vacant seat in the car 
and that was between two white women in 
the forward end. Mr. Johnson motioned to 
the seat, but Wellington shrank from walking 
between those two rows of white people, to 
say nothing of sitting between the two women, 
so he remained standing in the rear part of 
the car. A moment later, as the car rounded 
a short curve, he was pitched sidewise into 
the lap of a stout woman magnificently at- 
tired in a ruffled blue calico gown. The 
lady colored up, and uncle Wellington, as he 
struggled to his feet amid the laughter of the 
passengers, was absolutely helpless with em- 
barrassment, until the conductor came up 
behind him and pushed him toward the 
vacant place. 

" Sit down, will you," he said ; and before 
uncle Wellington could collect himself, he 
was seated between the two white women. 
Everybody in the car seemed to be looking at 
him. But he came to the conclusion, after 
he had pulled himself together and reflected 
a few moments, that he would find this 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 233 

method of locomotion pleasanter when he 
got used to it, and then he could score one 
more glorious privilege gained by his change 
of residence. 

They got off at the public square, in the 
heart of the city, where there were flowers 
and statues, and fountains playing. Mr. 
Johnson pointed out the court-house, the 
post-office, the jail, and other public build- 
ings fronting on the square. They visited the 
market near by, and from an elevated point, 
looked down upon the extensive lumber yards 
and factories that were the chief sources of 
the city's prosperity. Beyond these they could 
see the fleet of ships that lined the coal 
and iron ore docks of the harbor. Mr. John- 
son, who was quite a fluent talker, enlarged 
upon the wealth and prosperity of the city ; 
and Wellington, who had never before been 
in a town of more than three thousand inhab- 
itants, manifested sufficient interest and won- 
der to satisfy the most exacting cicerone. 
They called at the office of a colored lawyer 
and member of the legislature, formerly from 
North Carolina, who, scenting a new constitu- 
ent and a possible client, greeted the stranger 
warmly, and in flowing speech pointed out 



234 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

the superior advantages of life at the North, 
citing himself as an illustration of the possi- 
bilities of life in a country really free. As 
they wended their way homeward to dinner 
uncle Wellington, with quickened pulse and 
rising hopes, felt that this was ipdeed the 
promised land, and that it must be flowing 
with milk and honey. 

Uncle Wellington remained at the residence 
of Mr. Johnson for several weeks before mak- 
ing any effort to find employment. He spent 
this period in looking about the city. The 
most commonplace things possessed for him 
the charm of novelty, and he had come pre- 
pared to admire. Shortly after his arrival, he 
had offered to pay for his board, intimating 
at the same time that he had plenty of money. 
Mr. Johnson declined to accept anything 
from him for board, and expressed himself as 
being only too proud to have Mr. Braboy re- 
main in the house on the footing of an hon- 
ored guest, until he had settled himself. He 
lightened in some degree, however, the burden 
of obligation under which a prolonged stay 
on these terms would have placed his guest, 
by soliciting from the latter occasional small 
loans, until uncle Wellington's roll of money 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 235 

began to lose its plumpness, and with an 
empty pocket staring him in the face, he felt 
the necessity of finding something to do. 

During his residence in the city he had met 
several times his first acquaintance, Mr. Peter- 
son, the hackman, who from time to time 
inquired how he was getting along. On one 
of these occasions Wellington mentioned his 
willingness to accept employment. As good 
luck would have it, Mr. Peterson knew of 
a vacant situation. He had formerly been 
coachman for a wealthy gentleman residing 
on Oakwood Avenue, but had resigned the 
situation to go into business for himself. His 
place had been filled by an Irishman, who 
had just been discharged for drunkenness, and 
the gentleman that very day had sent word to 
Mr. Peterson, asking him if he could recom- 
mend a competent and trustworthy coachman. 

" Does you know anything erbout hosses ? " 
asked Mr. Peterson. 

" Yas, indeed, I does," said Wellington. 
Ci I wuz raise' 'mongs' hosses." 

u I tol' my ole boss I 'd look out fer a man, 
an' ef you reckon you kin fill de 'quirements 
er de situation, I '11 take yo' roun' dere ter- 
morrer mornin'. You wants ter put on yo' 



236 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

bes' clothes an' slick up, f er dey 're partic'lar 
people. Ef you git de place I '11 expec' you 
ter pay me fer de time I lose in 'tendin' ter 
yo' business, fer time is money in dis country, 
an' folks don't do much fer nuthin'." 

Next morning Wellington blacked his shoes 
carefully, put on a clean collar, and with the 
aid of Mrs. Johnson tied his cravat in a 
jaunty bow which gave him quite a sprightly 
air and a much younger look than his years 
warranted. Mr. Peterson called for him at 
eight o'clock. After traversing several cross 
streets they turned into Oakwood Avenue and 
walked along the finest part of it for about 
half a mile. The handsome houses of this 
famous avenue, the stately trees, the wide- 
spreading lawns, dotted with flower beds, 
fountains and statuary, made up a picture so 
far surpassing anything in Wellington's ex- 
perience as to fill him with an almost oppres- 
sive sense of its beauty. 

"Hit looks lack hebben," he said softly. 

" It 's a pootty fine street," rejoined his 
companion, with a judicial air, "but I don't 
like dem big lawns. It's too much trouble 
ter keep de grass down. One er dem lawns 
is big enough to pasture a couple er cows." 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 237 

They went down a street running at right 
angles to the avenue, and turned into the 
rear of the corner lot. A large building of 
pressed brick, trimmed with stone, loomed up 
before them. 

" Do de gemman lib in dis house ? " asked 
Wellington, gazing with awe at the front of 
the building. 

" No, dat 's de barn," said Mr. Peterson 
with good-natured contempt ; and leading the 
way past a clump of shrubbery to the dwell- 
ing-house, he went up the back steps and rang 
the door-bell. 

The ring was answered by a buxom Irish- 
woman, of a natural freshness of complexion 
deepened to a fiery red by the heat of a 
kitchen range. Wellington thought he had 
seen her before, but his mind had received so 
many new impressions lately that it was a 
minute or two before he recognized in her the 
lady whose lap he had involuntarily occupied 
for a moment on his first day in Groveland. 

" Faith," she exclaimed as she admitted 
them, " an' it 's mighty glad I am to see 
ye ag'in, Misther Payterson ! An' how hev 
ye be'n, Misther Payterson, sence I see ye 
lahst ? " 



238 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

"Middlin' well, Mis' Flannigan, mid dim' 
well, 'ceptin' a tech er de rheumatiz. S'pose 
you be'n doin' well as usual ? " 

" Oh yis, as well as a dacent woman could 
do wid a drunken baste about the place like 
the lahst coachman. Misther Payterson, 
it would make yer heart bleed to see the way 
the spalpeen cut up a-Saturday ! But Misther 
Todd discharged 'im the same avenin', widout 
a characther, bad 'cess to 'im, an' we 've had 
no coachman sence at all, at all. An' it 's 
sorry I am " — 

The lady's flow of eloquence was interrupted 
at this point by the appearance of Mr. Todd 
himself, who had been informed of the men's 
arrival. He asked some questions in regard 
to Wellington's qualifications and former ex- 
perience, and in view of his recent arrival in 
the city was willing to accept Mr. Peterson's 
recommendation instead of a reference. He 
said a few words about the nature of the 
work, and stated his willingness to pay Wel- 
lington the wages formerly allowed Mr. Peter- 
son, thirty dollars a month and board and 
lododnor 

This handsome offer was eagerly accepted, 
and it was agreed that Wellington's term of 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 239 

service should begin immediately. Mr. Peter- 
son, being familiar with the work, and finan- 
cially interested, conducted the new coachman 
through the stables and showed him what he 
would have to do. The silver-mounted har- 
ness, the variety of carriages, the names of 
which he learned for the first time, the ar- 
rangements for feeding and watering the 
horses, — these appointments of a rich man's 
stable impressed Wellington very much, and 
he wondered that so much luxury should be 
wasted on mere horses. The room assigned 
to him, in the second story of the barn, was 
a finer apartment than he had ever slept in ; 
and the salary attached to the situation was 
greater than the combined monthly earnings 
of himself and aunt Milly in their Southern 
home. Surely, he thought, his lines had 
fallen in pleasant places. 

Under the stimulus of new surroundings 
Wellington applied himself diligently to work, 
and, with the occasional advice of Mr. Peter- 
son, soon mastered the details of his employ- 
ment. He found the female servants, with 
whom he took his meals, very amiable ladies. 
The cook, Mrs. Katie Flannigan, was a widow. 
Her husband, a sailor, had been lost at sea. 



240 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

She was a woman of many words, and when 
she was not lamenting the late Flannigan's 
loss, — according to her story he had been a 
model of all the virtues, — she would turn 
the batteries of her tongue against the former 
coachman. This gentleman, as Wellington 
gathered from frequent remarks dropped by 
Mrs. Flannigan, had paid her attentions clearly 
susceptible of a serious construction. These 
attentions had not borne their legitimate fruit, 
and she was still a widow unconsoled, — hence 
Mrs. Flannigan's tears. The housemaid was 
a plump, good-natured German girl, with a 
pronounced German accent. The presence 
on washdays of a Bohemian laundress, of re- 
cent importation, added another to the variety 
of ways in which the English tongue was 
mutilated in Mr. Todd's kitchen. Association 
with the white women drew out all the native 
gallantry of the mulatto, and Wellington de- 
veloped quite a helpful turn. His politeness, 
his willingness to lend a hand in kitchen or 
laundry, and the fact that he was the only 
male servant on the place, combined to make 
him a prime favorite in the servants' quarters. 
It was the general opinion among Welling- 
ton's acquaintances that he was a single man. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 241 

He had come to the city alone, had never 
been heard to speak of a wife, and to personal 
questions bearing upon the subject of matri- 
mony had always returned evasive answers. 
Though he had never questioned the correct- 
ness of the lawyer's opinion in regard to his 
slave marriage, his conscience had never been 
entirely at ease since his departure from the 
South, and any positive denial of his married 
condition would have stuck in his throat. 
The inference naturally drawn from his reti- 
cence in regard to the past, coupled with his 
expressed intention of settling permanently 
in Groveland, was that he belonged in the 
ranks of the unmarried, and was therefore 
legitimate game for any widow or old maid 
who could bring him down. As such game 
is bagged easiest at short range, he received 
numerous invitations to tea-parties, where he 
feasted on unlimited chicken and pound cake. 
He used to compare these viands with the 
plain fare often served by aunt Milly, and 
the result of the comparison was another item 
to the credit of the North upon his mental 
ledger. Several of the colored ladies who 
smiled upon him were blessed with good looks, 
and uncle Wellington, naturally of a suscep- 



242 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

tible temperament, as people of lively imagi- 
nation are apt to be, would probably have 
fallen a victim to the charms of some wo- 
man of his own race, had it not been for a 
strong counter-attraction in the person of 
Mrs. Flannigan. The attentions of the lately 
discharged coachman had lighted anew the 
smouldering fires of her widowed heart, and 
awakened longings which still remained un- 
satisfied. She was thirty-five years old, and 
felt the need of some one else to love. She 
was not a woman of lofty ideals ; with her a 
man was a man — 

" For a' that an' a' that ; " 

and, aside from the accident of color, uncle 
Wellington was as personable a man as any 
of her acquaintance. Some people might 
have objected to his complexion ; but then, 
Mrs. Flannigan argued, he was at least half 
white ; and, this being the case, there was no 
good reason why he should be regarded as 
black. 

Uncle Wellington was not slow to perceive 
Mrs. Flannigan's charms of person, and ap- 
preciated to the full the skill that prepared 
the choice tidbits reserved for his plate at 
dinner. The prospect of securing a white 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 243 

wife had been one of the principal induce- 
ments offered by a life at the North ; but 
the awe of white people in which he had been 
reared was still too strong to permit his tak- 
ing any active steps toward the object of his 
secret desire, had not the lady herself come 
to his assistance with a little of the native 
coquetry of her race. 

"Ah, Misther Braboy," she said one evening 
when they sat at the supper table alone, — it 
was the second girl's afternoon off, and she 
had not come home to supper, — " it must be 
an awful lonesome life ye 've been afther 
l'adin', as a single man, wid no one to cook 
fer ye, or look afther ye." 

" It are a kind er lonesome life, Mis' Flan- 
nigan, an' dat 's a fac\ But sence I had de 
privilege er eatin' yo' cookin' an' 'joyin' yo' 
society, I am' felt a bit lonesome." 

" Yer flatthrm' me, Misther Braboy. An' 
even if ye mane it " — 

" I means eve'y word of it, Mis' Flanni- 
gan." 

" An' even if ye mane it, Misther Braboy, 
the time is liable to come when things '11 be 
different ; for service is uncertain, Misther Bra- 
boy. An' then you '11 wish you had some nice, 



244 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

clean woman, 'at knowed how to cook an' wash 
an' iron, ter look afther ye, an' make yer life 
comfortable." 

Uncle Wellington sighed, and looked at 
her languishingly. 

" It 'u'd all be well ernuff, Mis' Flannigan, 
ef I had n' met you ; but I don' know whar 
I 's ter fin' a colored lady w'at '11 begin ter 
suit me after habbin' libbed in de same house 
wid you." 

" Colored lady, indade ! Why, Misther Bra- 
boy, ye don't nade ter demane yerself by 
marryin' a colored lady — not but they 're as 
good as anybody else, so long as they behave 
themselves. There 's many a white woman 
'u'd be glad ter git as fine a lookin' man as ye 
are." 

" Now you 're flattrin' me, Mis' Flanni- 
gan," said Wellington. But he felt a sudden 
and substantial increase in courage when she 
had spoken, and it was with astonishing ease 
that he found himself saying : — 

" Dey ain' but one lady, Mis' Elannigan, 
dat could injuce me ter want ter change de 
lonesomeness er my singleness fer de 'sponsi- 
bilities er matermony, an' I 'm feared she 'd 
say no ef I 'd ax her." 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 245 

" Ye 'd better ax her, Misther Braboy, an' 
not be wastin' time a-wond , rin , . Do I know 
the lady?" 

" You knows 'er better 'n anybody else, 
Mis' Flannigan. You is de only lady I 'd be 
satisfied ter marry after knowin' you. Ef you 
casts me off I '11 spen' de rest er my days in 
lonesomeness an' mis'ry." 

Mrs. Flannigan affected much surprise and 
embarrassment at this bold declaration. 

" Oh, Misther Braboy," she said, covering 
him with a coy glance, " an' it 's rale 'shamed 
I am to hev b'en talkin' ter ye ez I hev. It 
looks as though I 'd b'en doin' the coortin'. 
I did n't drame that I 'd b'en able ter draw 
yer affections to mesilf." 

" I 's loved you ever sence I fell in yo' lap 
on de street car de fus' day I wuz in Grove- 
land," he said, as he moved his chair up 
closer to hers. 

One evening in the following week they 
went out after supper to the residence of 
Rev. Csesar Williams, pastor of the colored 
Baptist church, and, after the usual prelimi- 
naries, were pronounced man and wife. 



246 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

III 

According to all his preconceived notions, 
this marriage ought to have been the acme 
of uncle Wellington's felicity. But he soon 
found that it was not without its drawbacks. 
On the following morning Mr. Todd was in- 
formed of the marriage. He had no special 
objection to it, or interest in it, except that he 
was opposed on principle to having husband 
and wife in his employment at the same time. 
As a consequence, Mrs. Braboy, whose place 
could be more easily filled than that of her 
husband, received notice that her services 
would not be required after the end of the 
month. Her husband was retained in his 
place as coachman. 

Upon the loss of her situation, Mrs. Braboy 
decided to exercise the married woman's pre- 
rogative of letting her husband support her. 
She rented the upper floor of a small house 
in an Irish neighborhood. The newly wedded 
pair furnished their rooms on the installment 
plan and began housekeeping. 

There was one little circumstance, however, 
that interfered slightly with their enjoyment 
of that perfect freedom from care which ought 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 247 

to characterize a honeymoon. The people 
who owned the house and occupied the lower 
floor had rented the upper part to Mrs. 
Braboy in person, it never occurring to them 
that her husband could be other than a white 
man. When it became known that he was 
colored, the landlord, Mr. Dennis O'Flaherty, 
felt that he had been imposed upon, and, at 
the end of the first month, served notice upon 
his tenants to leave the premises. When 
Mrs. Braboy, with characteristic impetuosity, 
inquired the meaning of this proceeding, she 
was informed by Mr. O'Flaherty that he did 
not care to live in the same house " wid 
naygurs." Mrs. Braboy resented the epithet 
with more warmth than dignity, and for a 
brief space of time the air was green with 
choice specimens of brogue, the altercation 
barely ceasing before it had reached the point 
of blows. 

It was quite clear that the Braboys could 
not longer live comfortably in Mr. O'Fla- 
herty 's house, and they soon vacated the prem- 
ises, first letting the rent get a couple of 
weeks in arrears as a punishment to the too 
fastidious landlord. They moved to a small 
house on Hackman Street, a favorite locality 
with colored people. 



248 / UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

For a while, affairs ran smoothly in the new 
home. The colored people seemed, at first, 
well enough disposed toward Mrs. Braboy, 
and she made quite a large acquaintance 
among them. It was difficult, however, for 
Mrs. Braboy to divest herself of the conscious- 
ness that she was white, and therefore superior 
to her neighbors. Occasional words and acts 
by which she manifested this feeling were 
noticed and resented by her keen-eyed and 
sensitive colored neighbors. The result was 
a slight coolness between them. That her 
few white neighbors did not visit her, she 
naturally and no doubt correctly imputed to 
disapproval of her matrimonial relations. 

Under these circumstances, Mrs. Braboy 
was left a good deal to her own company. 
Owing to lack of opportunity in early life, she 
was not a woman of many resources, either 
mental or moral. It is therefore not strange 
that, in order to relieve her loneliness, she 
should occasionally have recourse to a glass 
of beer, and, as the habit grew upon her, 
to still stronger stimulants. Uncle Welling- 
ton himself was no teetotaler, and did not 
interpose any objection so long as she kept 
her potations within reasonable limits, and 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 249 

was apparently none the worse for them ; 
indeed, he sometimes joined her in a glass. 
On one of these occasions he drank a little 
too much, and, while driving the ladies of 
Mr. Todd's family to the opera, ran against a 
lamp-post and overturned the carriage, to the 
serious discomposure of the ladies' nerves, 
and at the cost of his situation. 

A coachman discharged under such cir- 
cumstances is not in the best position for 
procuring employment at his calling, and 
uncle Wellington, under the pressure of 
need, was obliged to seek some other means 
of livelihood. At the suggestion of his friend 
Mr. Johnson, he bought a whitewash brush, a 
peck of lime, a couple of pails, and a hand- 
cart, and began work as a whitewasher. His 
first efforts were very crude, and for a while 
he lost a customer in every person he worked 
for. He nevertheless managed to pick up a 
living during the spring and summer months, 
and to support his wife and himself in com- 
parative comfort. 

The approach of winter put an end to the 
whitewashing season, and left uncle Welling- 
ton dependent for support upon occasional jobs 
of unskilled labor. The income derived from 



250 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

these was very uncertain, and Mrs. Braboy 
was at length driven, by stress of circum- 
stances, to the washtub, that last refuge of 
honest, able-bodied poverty, in all countries 
where the use of clothing is conventional. 

The last state of uncle Wellington was now 
worse than the first. Under the soft firm- 
ness of aunt Milly's rule, he had not been 
required to do a great deal of work, prompt 
and cheerful obedience being chiefly what was 
expected of him. But matters were very dif- 
ferent here. He had not only to bring in the 
coal and water, but to rub the clothes and 
turn the wringer, and to humiliate himself 
before the public by emptying the tubs and 
hanging out the wash in full view of the 
neighbors ; and he had to deliver the clothes 
when laundered. 

At times Wellington found himself won- 
dering if his second marriage had been a wise 
one. Other circumstances combined to change 
in some degree his once rose-colored concep- 
tion of life at the North. He had believed 
that all men were equal in this favored local- 
ity, but he discovered more degrees of inequal- 
ity than he had ever perceived at the South. 
A colored man might be as good as a white 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 251 

man in theory, but neither of them was of any 
special consequence without money, or talent, 
or position. Uncle Wellington found a great 
many privileges open to him at the North, but 
he had not been educated to the point where 
he could appreciate them or take advantage 
of them ; and the enjoyment of many of them 
was expensive, and, for that reason alone, as 
far beyond his reach as they had ever been. 
When he once began to admit even the pos- 
sibility of a mistake on his part, these con- 
siderations presented themselves to his mind 
with increasing force. On occasions when 
Mrs. Braboy would require of him some un- 
usual physical exertion, or when too fre- 
quent applications to the bottle had loosened 
her tongue, uncle Wellington's mind would 
revert, with a remorseful twinge of conscience, 
to the dolcefar niente of his Southern home ; 
a film would come over his eyes and brain, 
and, instead of the red-faced Irishwoman op- 
posite him, he could see the black but comely 
disk of aunt Milly's countenance bending 
over the washtub ; the elegant brogue of Mrs. 
Braboy would deliquesce into the soft dialect 
of North Carolina ; and he would only be 
aroused from this blissful reverie by a wet 



252 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

shirt or a handful of suds thrown into his 
face, with which gentle reminder his wife 
would recall his attention to the duties of 
the moment. 

There came a time, one day in spring, 
when there was no longer any question about 
it : uncle Wellington was desperately home- 
sick. 

Liberty, equality, privileges, — all were but 
as dust in the balance when weighed against 
his longing for old scenes and faces. It was 
the natural reaction in the mind of a middle- 
aged man who had tried to force the current 
of a sluggish existence into a new and radi- 
cally different channel. An active, industri- 
ous man, making the change in early life, 
while there was time to spare for the waste 
of adaptation, might have found in the new 
place more favorable conditions than in the 
old. In Wellington age and temperament 
combined to prevent the success of the exper- 
iment ; the spirit of enterprise and ambition 
into which he had been temporarily galvan- 
ized could no longer prevail against the iner- 
tia of old habits of life and thought. 

Orie day when he had been sent to deliver 
clothes he performed his errand quickly, and 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 253 

boarding a passing street car, paid one of his 
very few five-cent pieces to ride down to the 
office of the Hon. Mr. Brown, the colored 
lawyer whom he had visited when he first 
came to the city, and who was well known 
to him by sight and reputation. 

" Mr. Brown," he said, " I ain' gitt'n' 'long 
very well wid my ole 'oman." 

" What 's the trouble ? " asked the lawyer, 
with business-like curtness, for he did not 
scent much of a fee. 

" Well, de main trouble is she doan treat 
me right. An' den she gits drunk, an' wuss'n 
dat, she lays vi'lent han's on me. I kyars de 
marks er dat 'oman on my face now." 

He showed the lawyer a long scratch on the 
neck. 

" Why don't you defend yourself? " 

" You don' know Mis' Braboy, suh ; you 
don' know dat 'oman," he replied, with a 
shake of the head. " Some er dese yer w'ite 
women is monst'us strong in de wris'." 

" Well, Mr. Braboy, it 's what you might 
have expected when you turned your back 
on your own people and married a white 
woman. You were n't content with being- 
a slave to the white folks once, but you must 



254 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

try it again. Some people never know when 
they 've got enough. I don't see that there 's 
any help for you ; unless," he added sugges- 
tively, " you had a good deal of money." 

" 'Pears ter me I heared somebody say 
sence I be'n up heah, dat it wuz 'gin de law 
fer w'ite folks an' colored folks ter marry." 

" That was once the law, though it has 
always been a dead letter in Groveland. In 
fact, it was the law when you got married, 
and until I introduced a bill in the legislature 
last fall to repeal it. But even that law 
did n't hit cases like yours. It was unlawful 
to make such a marriage, but it was a good 
marriage when once made." 

" I don' jes' git dat th'oo my head," said 
Wellington, scratching that member as though 
to make a hole for the idea to enter. 

" It 's quite plain, Mr. Braboy. It 's un- 
lawful to kill a man, but when he 's killed 
he 's just as dead as though the law permitted 
it. I 'm afraid you have n't much of a case, 
but if you '11 go to work and get twenty-five 
dollars together, I '11 see what I can do for 
you. We may be able to pull a case through 
on the ground of extreme cruelty. I might 
even start the case if you brought in ten 
dollars." 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 255 

Wellington went away sorrowfully. The 
laws of Ohio were very little more satisfactory 
than those of North Carolina. And as for 
the ten dollars, — the lawyer might as well 
have told him to bring in the moon, or a 
deed for the Public Square. He felt very, 
very low as he hurried back home to supper, 
which he would have to go without if he were 
not on hand at the usual supper-time. 

But just when his spirits were lowest, and 
his outlook for the future most hopeless, a 
measure of relief was at hand. He noticed, 
when he reached home, that Mrs. Braboy 
was a little preoccupied, and did not abuse 
him as vigorously as he expected after so 
long an absence. He also perceived the smell 
of strange tobacco in the house, of a better 
grade than he could afford to use. He 
thought perhaps some one had come in to 
see about the washing ; but he was too glad 
of a respite from Mrs. Braboy's rhetoric to 
imperil it by indiscreet questions. 

Next morning she gave him fifty cents. 

" Braboy," she said, " ye 've be'n helpin' 
me nicely wid the washin', an' I 'm going ter 
give ye a holiday. Ye can take yer hook an' 
line an' go fishin' on the breakwater. I '11 fix 



256 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

ye a lunch, an' ye need n't come back till 
night. An' there 's half a dollar ; ye can buy 
yerself a pipe er terbacky. But be careful 
an' don't waste it," she added, for fear she 
was overdoing the thing. 

Uncle Wellington was overjoyed at this 
change of front on the part of Mrs. Braboy ; 
if she would make it permanent he did not 
see why they might not live together very 
comfortably. 

The day passed pleasantly down on the 
breakwater. The weather was agreeable, and 
the fish bit freely. Towards evening Welling- 
ton started home with a bunch of fish that 
no angler need have been ashamed of. He 
looked forward to a good warm supper ; for 
even if something should have happened 
during the day to alter his wife's mood for 
the worse, any ordinary variation would be 
more than balanced by the substantial ad- 
dition of food to their larder. His mouth 
watered at the thought of the finny beauties 
sputtering in the frying-pan. 

He noted, as he approached the house, that 
there was no smoke coming from the chimney. 
This only disturbed him in connection with 
the matter of supper. When he entered the 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 257 

gate he observed further that the window- 
shades had been taken down. 

" 'Spec' de ole 'oman's been house-cleanin 9 " 
he said to himself. " I wonder she did n' 
make me stay an' he'p 'er." 

He went round to the rear of the house 
and tried the kitchen door. It was locked. 
This was somewhat of a surprise, and dis- 
turbed still further his expectations in regard 
to supper. When he had found the key and 
opened the door, the gravity of his next 
discovery drove away for the time being all 
thoughts of eating. 

The kitchen was empty. Stove, table, 
chairs, wash-tubs, pots and pans, had vanished 
as if into thin air. 

" Fo' de Lawd's sake ! " he murmured in 
open-mouthed astonishment. 

He passed into the other room, — they had 
only two, — which had served as bedroom and 
sitting-room. It was as bare as the first, 
except that in the middle of the floor were 
piled uncle Wellington's clothes. It was not 
a large pile, and on the top of it lay a folded 
piece of yellow wrapping-paper. 

Wellington stood for a moment as if petri- 
fied. Then he rubbed his eyes and looked 
around him. 



258 UNCLE WELLINGTONS WIVES 

" Wat do dis mean ? " he said. " Is I er- 
dreamin', er does I see w'at I 'pears ter see ? " 
He glanced down at the bunch of fish which 
he still held. " Heah 's de fish ; heah 's de 
house; heah I is ; but whar 's de ole 'oman, 
an' whar 's de f u'niture ? / can't figure out 
w'at dis yer all means." 

He picked up the piece of paper and un- 
folded it. It was written on one side. Here 
was the obvious solution of the mystery, — 
that is, it would have been obvious if he could 
have read it ; but he could not, and so his 
fancy continued to play upon the subject. 
Perhaps the house had been robbed, or the 
furniture taken back by the seller, for it had 
not been entirely paid for. 

Finally he went across the street and called 
to a boy in a neighbor's yard. 

" Does you read writin', Johnnie ? ' : 

" Yes, sir, I 'm in the seventh grade." 

" Read dis yer paper fuh me." 

The youngster took the note, and with much 
labor read the following : — 

" Mr. Braboy : 

" In lavin' ye so suddint I have ter say 
that my first husban' has turned up unix- 




PERHAPS THE HOUSE HAD BEEN ROBBED 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 259 

pected, having been saved onbeknownst ter 
me from a wathry grave an' all the money 
wasted I spint fer masses fer ter rist his sole 
an' I wish I had it back I feel it my dooty ter 
go an' live wid 'im again. I take the furna- 
cher because I bought it yer close is yors I 
leave them and wishin' yer the best of luck 
I remane oncet yer wife but now agin 

" Mrs. Katie Flannigan. 
" N. B. I 'm lavin town terday so it won't 
be no use lookin' fer me." 

On inquiry uncle Wellington learned from 
the boy that shortly after his departure in the 
morning a white man had appeared on the 
scene, followed a little later by a moving- 
van, into which the furniture had been loaded 
and carried away. Mrs. Braboy, clad in her 
best clothes, had locked the door, and gone 
away with the strange white man. 

The news was soon noised about the street. 
Wellington swapped his fish for supper and a 
bed at a neighbor's, and during the evening 
learned from several sources that the strange 
white man had been at his house the 
afternoon of the day before. His neighbors 
intimated that they thought Mrs. Braboy's 



260 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

departure a good riddance of bad rubbish, 
and Wellington did not dispute the proposi- 
tion. 

Thus ended the second chapter of Welling- 
ton's matrimonial experiences. His wife's 
departure had been the one thing needful to 
convince him, beyond a doubt, that he had 
been a great fool. Remorse and homesick- 
ness forced him to the further conclusion that 
he had been knave as well as fool, and had 
treated aunt Milly shamefully. He was not 
altogether a bad old man, though very weak 
and erring, and his better nature now gained 
the ascendency. Of course his disappoint- 
ment had a great deal to do with his remorse ; 
most people do not perceive the hideousness 
of sin until they begin to reap its conse- 
quences. Instead of the beautiful Northern 
life he had dreamed of, he found himself 
stranded, penniless, in a strange land, among 
people whose sympathy he had forfeited, with 
no one to lean upon, and no refuge from the 
storms of life. His outlook was very dark, 
and there sprang up within him a wild long- 
ing to get back to North Carolina, — back 
to the little whitewashed cabin, shaded with 
china and mulberry trees ; back to the wood- 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 261 

pile and the garden ; back to the old cronies 
with whom he had swapped lies and tobacco 
for so many years. He longed to kiss the rod 
of aunt Milly's domination. He had pur- 
chased his liberty at too great a price. 

The next day he disappeared from Grove- 
land. He had announced his departure only 
to Mr. Johnson, who sent his love to his 
relations in Patesville. 

It would be painful to record in detail the 
return journey of uncle Wellington — Mr. 
Braboy no longer — to his native town ; how 
many weary miles he walked; how many times 
he risked his life on railroad trucks and be- 
tween freight cars; how he depended for 
sustenance on the grudging hand of back- 
door charity. Nor would it be profitable or 
delicate to mention any slight deviations from 
the path of rectitude, as judged by conven- 
tional standards, to which he may occasionally 
have been driven by a too insistent hunger ; 
or to refer in the remotest degree to a com- 
pulsory sojourn of thirty days in a city where 
he had no references, and could show no vis- 
ible means of support. True charity will let 
these purely personal matters remain locked 
in the bosom of him who suffered them. 



262 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

IV 

Just fifteen months after the date when 
uncle Wellington had left North Carolina, a 
weather-beaten figure entered the town of 
Patesville after nightfall, following the rail- 
road track from the north. Few would have 
recognized in the hungry-looking old brown 
tramp, clad in dusty rags and limping along 
with bare feet, the trim-looking middle-aged 
mulatto who so few months before had taken 
the train from Patesville for the distant 
North ; so, if he had but known it, there was 
no necessity for him to avoid the main streets 
and sneak around by unfrequented paths to 
reach the old place on the other side of the 
town. He encountered nobody that he knew, 
and soon the familiar shape of the little cabin 
rose before him. It stood distinctly outlined 
against the sky, and the light streaming from 
the half-opened shutters showed it to be occu- 
pied. As he drew nearer, every familiar de- 
tail of the place appealed to his memory and 
to his affections, and his heart went out to 
the old home and the old wife. As he came 
nearer still, the odor of fried chicken floated 
out upon the air and set his mouth to water- 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 263 

ing, and awakened unspeakable longings in 
his half -starved stomach. 

At this moment, however, a fearful thought 
struck him ; suppose the old woman had taken 
legal advice and married again during his ab- 
sence ? Turn about would have been only 
fair play. He opened the gate softly, and with 
his, heart in his mouth approached the window 
on tiptoe and looked in. 

A cheerful fire was blazing on the hearth, 
in front of which sat the familiar form of 
aunt Milly — and another, at the sight of 
whom uncle Wellington's heart sank within 
him. He knew the other person very well ; 
he had sat there more than once before uncle 
Wellington went away. It was the minister 
of the church to which his wife belonged. 
The preacher's former visits, however, had 
signified nothing more than pastoral courtesy, 
or appreciation of good eating. His presence 
now was of serious portent ; for Wellington 
recalled, with acute alarm, that the elder's 
wife had died only a few weeks before his 
own departure for the North. What was the 
occasion of his presence this evening ? Was 
it merely a pastoral call? or was he courting ? 
or had aunt Milly taken legal advice and mar- 
ried the elder ? 



264 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

Wellington remembered a crack in the 
wall, at the back of the house, through which 
he could see and hear, and quietly stationed 
himself there. 

"Dat chicken smells mighty good, Sis' 
Milly," the elder was saying ; " I can't f er de 
life er me see why dat low-down husban' er 
yo'n could ever run away f 'm a cook like you. 
It 's one er de beatenis' things I ever heared. 
How he could lib wid you an' not 'predate 
you / can't understan', no indeed I can't." 

Aunt Milly sighed. " De trouble wid 
Wellin'ton wuz," she replied, " dat he did n' 
know when he wuz well off. He wuz alluz 
wishin' fer change, er studyin' 'bout some- 
thin' new." 

"Ez fer me," responded the elder ear- 
nestly, " I likes things what has be'n prove' 
an' tried an' has stood de tes', an' I can't 
'magine how anybody could spec' ter fin' a 
better housekeeper er cook dan you is, Sis' 
Milly. I 'm a gittin' mighty lonesone sence 
my wife died. De Good Book say it is not 
good fer man ter lib alone, en it 'pears ter me 
dat you an' me mought git erlong tergether 
monst'us well." 

Wellington's heart stood still, while he 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 265 

listened with strained attention. Aunt Milly 
sighed. 

" I ain't denyin', elder, but what I 've be'n 
kinder lonesome myse'f fer quite a w'ile, an' 
I doan doubt dat w'at de Good Book say 
'plies ter women as well as ter men." 

" You kin be sho' it do," averred the elder, 
with professional authoritativeness ; " yas 'm, 
you kin be cert'n sho'." 

" But, of co'se," aunt Milly went on, 
" havin' los' my ole man de way I did, it has 
tuk me some time fer ter git my feelin's 
straighten' out like dey oughter be." 

"I kin 'magine yo' feelin's Sis' Milly," 
chimed in the elder sympathetically, " w'en 
you come home dat night an' f oun' yo' chist 
broke open, an' yo' money gone dat you had 
wukked an' slaved fuh f'm mawnin' 'tel 
night, year in an' year out, an' w'en you 
foun' dat no-'count nigger gone wid his clo's 
an' you lef all alone in de worl' ter scuffle 
'long by yo'self." 

" Yas, elder," responded aunt Milly, " I 
wa'n't used right. An' den w'en I heared 
'bout his goin' ter de lawyer ter fin' out 'bout 
a defoce, an' w'en I heared w'at de lawyer 
said 'bout my not bein' his wife 'less he 



266 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

wanted me, it made me so mad, I made up 
my mill' dat ef he ever put his foot on my do'- 
sill ag'in, I 'd shet de do' in his face an' tell 
'ira ter go back whar he come f'm." 

To Wellington, on the outside, the cabin 
had never seemed so comfortable, aunt Milly 
never so desirable, chicken never so appetiz- 
ing, as at this moment when they seemed 
slipping away from his grasp forever. 

" Yo' feelin's does you credit, Sis' Milly," 
said the elder, taking her hand, which for a 
moment she did not withdraw. " An' de way 
fer you ter close yo' do' tightes' ag'inst 'im is 
ter take me in his place. He ain' got no 
claim on you no mo'. He tuk his ch'ice 
'cor din' ter w'at de lawyer tol' 'im, an' 'ter- 
mine' dat he wa'n't yo' husban'. Ef he 
wa'n't yo' husban', he had no right ter take 
yo' money, an' ef he comes back here ag'in 
you kin hab 'im tuck up an' sent ter de peni- 
tenchy fer stealin' it." 

Uncle Wellington's knees, already weak 
from fasting, trembled violently beneath him. 
The worst that he had feared was now likely 
to happen. His only hope of safety lay in 
flight, and yet the scene within so fascinated 
him that he could not move a step. 



UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 267 

" It 'u'd serve him right/' exclaimed aunt 
Milly indignantly, " ef he wuz sent ter de 
penitenchy fer life ! Dey ain't nuthin' too 
mean ter be done ter 'im. What did I ever 
do dat he should use me like he did ? ' : 

The recital of her wrongs had wrought 
upon aunt Milly's feelings so that her voice 
broke, and she wiped her eyes with her apron. 

The elder looked serenely confident, and 
moved his chair nearer hers in order the 
better to play the role of comforter. Wel- 
lington, on the outside, felt so mean that 
the darkness of the night was scarcely suffi- 
cient to hide him ; it would be no more than 
right if the earth were to open and swallow 
him up. 

" An' yet aftuh all, elder," said Milly with 
a sob, " though I knows you is a better man, 
an' would treat me right, I wuz so use' ter 
dat ole nigger, an' libbed wid 'im so long, 
dat ef he 'd open dat do' dis minute an' walk 
in, I 'm feared I 'd be foolish ernuff an' 
weak ernuff to forgive 'im an' take 'im back 
ag'in." 

With a bound, uncle Wellington was away 
from the crack in the wall. As he ran round 
the house he passed the wood-pile and snatched 



268 UNCLE WELLINGTON'S WIVES 

up an armful of pieces. A moment later he 
threw open the door. 

" Ole 'oman," he exclaimed, " here 's dat 
wood you tol' me ter fetch in ! Why, elder/' 
he said to the preacher, who had started from 
his seat with surprise, " w'at 's yo' hurry ? 
Won't you stay an' hab some supper wid 
us?" 



THE BOUQUET 

Mary Myrover's friends were somewhat 
surprised when she began to teach a colored 
school. Miss Myrover's friends are mentioned 
here, because nowhere more than in a South- 
ern town is public opinion a force which can- 
not be lightly contravened. Public opinion, 
however, did not oppose Miss Myrover's 
teaching colored children ; in fact, all the 
colored public schools in town — and there 
were several — were taught by white teachers, 
and had been so taught since the State had 
undertaken to provide free public instruction 
for all children within its boundaries. Previ- 
ous to that time, there had been a Freedman's 
Bureau school and a Presbyterian missionary 
school, but these had been withdrawn when 
the need for them became less pressing. The 
colored people of the town had been for some 
time agitating their right to teach their own 
schools, but as yet the claim had not been 
conceded. 



270 THE BOUQUET 

The reason Miss My rover's course created 
some surprise was not, therefore, the fact that 
a Southern white woman should teach a col- 
ored school ; it lay in the fact that up to this 
time no woman of just her quality had taken 
up such work. Most of the teachers of col- 
ored schools were not of those who had con- 
stituted the aristocracy of the old regime ; 
they might be said rather to represent the 
new order of things, in which labor was in 
time to become honorable, and men were, 
after a somewhat longer time, to depend, for 
their place in society, upon themselves rather 
than upon their ancestors. Mary Myrover 
belonged to one of the proudest of the old 
families. Her ancestors had been people 
of distinction in Virginia before a collateral 
branch of the main stock had settled in North 
Carolina. Before the war, they had been able 
to live up to their pedigree ; but the war 
brought sad changes. Miss Myrover's father 
— the Colonel Myrover who led a gallant but 
desperate charge at V icksburg — had fallen 
on the battlefield, and his tomb in the white 
cemetery was a shrine for the family. On the 
Confederate Memorial Day, no other grave 
was so profusely decorated with flowers, and, 



THE BOUQUET 271 

in the oration pronounced, the name of Colo- 
nel Myrover was always used to illustrate 
the highest type of patriotic devotion and 
self-sacrifice. Miss Myrover's brother, too, 
had fallen in the conflict ; but his bones lay 
in some unknown trench, with those of a 
thousand others who had fallen on the same 
field. Ay, more, her lover, who had hoped 
to come home in the full tide of victory and 
claim his bride as a reward for gallantry, had 
shared the fate of her father and brother. 
When the war was over, the remnant of the 
family found itself involved in the common 
ruin, — more deeply involved, indeed, than 
some others; for Colonel Myrover had be- 
lieved in the ultimate triumph of his cause, 
and had invested most of his wealth in Con- 
federate bonds, which were now only so much 
waste paper. 

There had been a little left. Mrs. Myrover 
was thrifty, and had laid by a few hundred 
dollars, which she kept in the house to meet 
unforeseen contingencies. There remained, 
too, their home, with an ample garden and a 
well-stocked orchard, besides a considerable 
tract of country land, partly cleared, but pro- 
ductive of very little revenue. 



272 THE BOUQUET 

With their shrunken resources, Miss Myro- 
ver and her mother were able to hold up their 
heads without embarrassment for some years 
after the close of the war. But when things 
were adjusted to the changed conditions, and 
the stream of life began to flow more vigor- 
ously in the new channels, they saw them- 
selves in danger of dropping behind, unless in 
some way they could add to their meagre in- 
come. Miss Myrover looked over the field of 
employment, never very wide for women in 
the South, and found it occupied. The only 
available position she could be supposed pre- 
pared to fill, and which she could take with- 
out distinct loss of caste, was that of a 
teacher, and there was no vacancy except in 
one of the colored schools. Even teaching 
was a doubtful experiment ; it was not what 
she would have preferred, but it was the best 
that could be done. 

"I don't like it, Mary," said her mother. 
" It 's a long step from owning such people 
to teaching them. What do they need with 
education ? It will only make them unfit for 
work." 

" They 're free now, mother, and perhaps 
they '11 work better if they 're taught some- 



THE BOUQUET 273 

thing. Besides, it 's only a business arrange- 
ment, and does n't involve any closer contact 
than we have with our servants." 

" Well, I should say not ! " sniffed the old 
lady. " Not one of them will ever dare to pre- 
sume on your position to take any liberties 
with us. jT'11 see to that." 

Miss My rover began her work as a teacher 
in the autumn, at the opening of the school 
year. It was a novel experience at first. 
Though there had always been negro servants 
in the house, and though on the streets colored 
people were more numerous than those of her 
own race, and though she was so familiar 
with their dialect that she might almost be 
said to speak it, barring certain characteristic 
grammatical inaccuracies, she had never been 
brought in personal contact with so many of 
them at once as when she confronted the fifty 
or sixty faces — of colors ranging from a 
white almost as clear as her own to the dark- 
est livery of the sun — which were gathered 
in the schoolroom on the morning when she 
began her duties. Some of the inherited 
prejudice of her caste, too, made itself felt, 
though she tried to repress any outward sign 
of it ; and she could perceive that the chil- 



274 THE BOUQUET 

dren were not altogether responsive ; they, 
likewise, were not entirely free from antago- 
nism. The work was unfamiliar to her. She 
was not physically very strong, and at the close 
of the first day went home with a splitting 
headache. If she could have resigned then 
and there without causing comment or annoy- 
ance to others, she would have felt it a privi- 
lege to do so. But a night's rest banished 
her headache and improved her spirits, and 
the next morning she went to her work with 
renewed vigor, fortified by the experience of 
the first day. 

Miss Myrover's second day was more satis- 
factory. She had some natural talent for 
organization, though hitherto unaware of it, 
and in the course of the day she got her 
classes formed and lessons under way. In a 
week or two she began to classify her pupils 
in her own mind, as bright or stupid, mis- 
chievous or well behaved, lazy or industrious, 
as the case might be, and to regulate her dis- 
cipline accordingly. That she had come of 
a long line of ancestors who had exercised 
authority and mastership was perhaps not 
without its effect upon her character, and 
enabled her more readily to maintain good 



THE BOUQUET 275 

order in the school. When she was fairly 
broken in, she found the work rather to her 
liking, and derived much pleasure from such 
success as she achieved as a teacher. 

It was natural that she should be more at- 
tracted to some of her pupils than to others. 
Perhaps her favorite — or, rather, the one 
she liked best, for she was too fair and just 
for conscious favoritism — was Sophy Tucker. 
Just the ground for the teacher's liking for 
Sophy might not at first be apparent. The 
girl was far from the whitest of Miss Myro- 
ver's pupils ; in fact, she was one of the darker 
ones. She was not the brightest in intellect, 
though she always tried to learn her lessons. 
She was not the best dressed, for her mother 
was a poor widow, who went out washing and 
scrubbing for a living. Perhaps the real tie 
between them was Sophy's intense devotion 
to the teacher. It had manifested itself 
almost from the first day of the school, in the 
rapt look of admiration Miss Myrover always 
saw on the little black face turned toward 
her. In it there was nothing of envy, no- 
thing of regret ; nothing but worship for the 
beautiful white lady — she was not especially 
handsome, but to Sophy her beauty was 



276 THE BOUQUET 

almost divine — who had come to teach her. 
If Miss Myrover dropped a book, Sophy was 
the first to spring and pick it up ; if she 
wished a chair moved, Sophy seemed to an- 
ticipate her wish ; and so of all the number- 
less little services that can be rendered in a 
schoolroom. 

Miss Myrover was fond of flowers, and 
liked to have them about her. The children 
soon learned of this taste of hers, and kept 
the vases on her desk filled with blossoms 
during their season. Sophy was perhaps the 
most active in providing them. If she could 
not get garden flowers, she would make ex- 
cursions to the woods in the early morning, 
and bring in great dew-laden bunches of bay, 
or jasmine, or some other fragrant forest 
flower which she knew the teacher loved. 

" When I die, Sophy," Miss Myrover said 
to the child one day, " I want to be covered 
with roses. And when they bury me, I'm 
sure I shall rest better if my grave is banked 
with flowers, and roses are planted at my 
head and at my feet." 

Miss Myrover was at first amused at Sophy's 
devotion ; but when she grew more accus- 
tomed to it, she found it rather to her liking. 



THE BOUQUET 277 

It had a sort of flavor of the old regime, and 
she felt, when she bestowed her kindly notice 
upon her little black attendant, some of the 
feudal condescension of the mistress toward 
the slave. She was kind to Sophy, and per- 
mitted her to play the role she had assumed, 
which caused sometimes a little jealousy 
among the other girls. Once she gave Sophy 
a yellow ribbon which she took from her own 
hair. The child carried it home, and cher- 
ished it as a priceless treasure, to be worn 
only on the greatest occasions. 

Sophy had a rival in her attachment to the 
teacher, but the rivalry was altogether friendly. 
Miss Myrover had a little dog, a white spaniel, 
answering to the name of Prince. Prince was 
a dog of high degree, and would have very 
little to do with the children of the school ; 
he made an exception, however, in the case 
of Sophy, whose devotion for his mistress he 
seemed to comprehend. He was a clever 
dog, and could fetch and carry, sit up on his 
haunches, extend his paw to shake hands, and 
possessed several other canine accomplish- 
ments. He was very fond of his mistress, 
and always, unless shut up at home, accom- 
panied her to school, where he spent most of 



278 THE BOUQUET 

his time lying under the teacher's desk, or, in 
cold weather, by the stove, except when he 
would go out now and then and chase an 
imaginary rabbit round the yard, presumably 
for exercise. 

At school Sophy and Prince vied with each 
other in their attentions to Miss Myrover. 
But when school was over, Prince went away 
with her, and Sophy stayed behind ; for Miss 
Myrover was white and Sophy was black, 
which they both understood perfectly well. 
Miss Myrover taught the colored children, 
but she could not be seen with them in pub- 
lic. If they occasionally met her on the street, 
they did not expect her to speak to them, 
unless she happened to be alone and no other 
white person was in sight. If any of the 
children felt slighted, she was not aware of it, 
for she intended no slight ; she had not been 
brought up to speak to negroes on the street, 
and she could not act differently from other 
people. And though she was a woman of 
sentiment and capable of deep feeling, her 
training had been such that she hardly ex- 
pected to find in those of darker hue than 
herself the same susceptibility — varying in 
degree, perhaps, but yet the same in kind — 



THE BOUQUET 279 

that gave to her own life the alternations of 
feeling that made it most worth living. 

Once Miss Myrover wished to carry home a 
parcel of books. She had the bundle in her 
hand when Sophy came up. 

" Lernme tote yo' bundle fer yer, Miss 
Ma'y ? " she asked eagerly. " I 'm gwine yo' 
way." 

" Thank you, Sophy/' was the reply. " I '11 
be glad if you will." 

Sophy followed the teacher at a respectful 
distance. When they reached Miss Myrover' s 
home, Sophy carried the bundle to the door- 
step, where Miss Myrover took it and thanked 
her. 

Mrs. Myrover came out on the piazza as 
Sophy was moving away. She said, in the 
child's hearing, and perhaps with the inten- 
tion that she should hear : " Mary, I wish 
you would n't let those little darkeys follow 
you to the house. I don't want them in the 
yard. I should think you 'd have enough of 
them all day." 

" Very well, mother," replied her daughter. 
" I won't bring any more of them. The child 
was only doing me a favor." 

Mrs. Myrover was an invalid, and oppo- 



280 THE BOUQUET 

sition or irritation of any kind brought on 
nervous paroxysms that made her miser- 
able, and made life a burden to the rest of 
the household, so that Mary seldom crossed 
her whims. She did not bring Sophy to the 
house again, nor did Sophy again offer her 
services as porter. 

One day in spring Sophy brought her 
teacher a bouquet of yellow roses. 

"Deycome off'n my own bush, Miss Ma'y," 
she said proudly, " an' I did n' let nobody 
e'se pull 'em, but saved 'em all fer you, 'cause 
I know you likes roses so much. I 'm gwine 
bring 'em all ter you as long as dey las'." 

" Thank you, Sophy," said the teacher ; 
u you are a very good girl." 

For another year Mary Myrover taught the 
colored school, and did excellent service. The 
children made rapid progress under her tui- 
tion, and learned to love her well ; for they 
saw and appreciated, as well as children could, 
her fidelity to a trust that she might have 
slighted, as some others did, without much 
fear of criticism. Toward the end of her 
second year she sickened, and after a brief 
illness died. 

Old Mrs. Myrover was inconsolable. She 



THE BOUQUET 281 

ascribed her daughter's death to her labors as 
teacher of negro children. Just how the 
color of the pupils had produced the fatal 
effects she did not stop to explain. But she 
was too old, and had suffered too deeply from 
the war, in body and mind and estate, ever 
to reconcile herself to the changed order of 
things following the return of peace ; and, 
with an unsound yet perfectly explainable 
logic, she visited some of her displeasure 
upon those who had profited most, though 
passively, by her losses. 

" I always feared something would happen 
to Mary," she said. " It seemed unnatural 
for her to be wearing herself out teaching 
little negroes who ought to have been work- 
ing for her. But the world has hardly been 
a fit place to live in since the war, and when 
I follow her, as I must before long, I shall 
not be sorry to go." 

She gave strict orders that no colored 
people should be admitted to the house. 
Some of her friends heard of this, and remon- 
strated. They knew the teacher was loved by 
the pupils, and felt that sincere respect from 
the humble would be a worthy tribute to the 
proudest. But Mrs. Myrover was obdurate. 



282 THE BOUQUET 

" They had my daughter when she was 
alive," she said, "and they've killed her. 
But she 's mine now, and I won't have them 
come near her. I don't want one of them at 
the funeral or anywhere around." 

For a month before Miss Myrover's death 
Sophy had been watching her rosebush — the 
one that bore the yellow roses — for the first 
buds of spring, and, when these appeared, had 
awaited impatiently their gradual unfolding. 
But not until her teacher's death had they be- 
come full-blown roses. When Miss Myrover 
died, Sophy determined to pluck the roses 
and lay them on her coffin. Perhaps, she 
thought, they might even put them in her 
ha^nd or on her breast. For Sophy remem- 
bered Miss Myrover's thanks and praise when 
she had brought her the yellow roses the 
spring before. 

On the morning of the day set for the fu- 
neral, Sophy washed her face until it shone, 
combed and brushed her hair with painful 
conscientiousness, put on her best frock, 
plucked her yellow roses, and, tying them 
with the treasured ribbon her teacher had 
given her, set out for Miss Myrover's home. 

She went round to the side gate — the 



THE BOUQUET 283 

house stood on a corner — and stole up the 
path to the kitchen. A colored woman, whom 
she did not know, came to the door. 

" Wat yer want, chile ? " she inquired. 

" Kin I see Miss Ma'y ? " asked Sophy 
timidly. 

" I don't know, honey. Ole Miss Myrover 
say she don't want no cullud folks roun' de 
house endyoin' dis fun'al. I '11 look an' see 
if she 's roun' de front room, whar de co'pse 
is. You sed down heah an' keep still, an' ef 
she 's upstairs maybe I kin git yer in dere a 
minute. Ef I can't, I kin put yo' bokay 
'niongs' de res', whar she won't know nuthin' 
erbout it." 

A moment after she had gone, there was a 
step in the hall, and old Mrs. Myrover came 
into the kitchen. 

" Dinah ! " she said in a peevish tone ; 
"Dinah!" 

Receiving no answer, Mrs. Myrover peered 
around the kitchen, and caught sight of 
Sophy. 

" What are you doing here ? ' she de- 
manded. 

"I — I 'm-m waitin' ter see de cook, 
ma'am," stammered Sophy. 



284 THE BOUQUET 

u The cook is n't here now. I don't know 
where she is. Besides, my daughter is to 
be buried to-day, and I won't have any one 
visiting the servants until the funeral is over. 
Come back some other day, or see the cook 
at her own home in the evening." 

She stood waiting for the child to go, and 
under the keen glance of her eyes Sophy, 
feeling as though she had been caught in 
some disgraceful act, hurried down the walk 
and out of the gate, with her bouquet in her 
hand. 

" Dinah," said Mrs. Myrover, when the 
cook came back, " I don't want any strange 
people admitted here to-day. The house will 
be full of our friends, and we have no room 
for others." 

" Yas 'm," said the cook. She understood 
perfectly what her mistress meant ; and what 
the cook thought about her mistress was a 
matter of no consequence. 

The funeral services were held at St. Paul's 
Episcopal Church, where the Myrovers had 
always worshiped. Quite a number of Miss 
Myrover's pupils went to the church to attend 
the services. The building was not a large one. 
There was a small gallery at the rear, to which 



THE BOUQUET 285 

colored people were admitted, if they chose to 
come, at ordinary services ; and those who 
wished to be present at the funeral supposed 
that the usual custom would prevail. They 
were therefore surprised, when they went to 
the side entrance, by which colored people 
gained access to the gallery stairs, to be met 
by an usher who barred their passage. 

" I 'm sorry," he said, " but I have had 
orders to admit no one until the friends of 
the family have all been seated. If you wish 
to wait until the white people have all gone 
in, and there 's any room left, you may be 
able to get into the back part of the gallery. 
Of course I can't tell yet whether there '11 be 
any room or not." 

Now the statement of the usher was a very 
reasonable one; but, strange to say, none of 
the colored people chose to remain except 
Sophy. She still hoped to use her floral 
offering for its destined end, in some way, 
though she did not know just how. She 
waited in the yard until the church was filled 
with white people, and a number who could 
not gain admittance were standing about the 
doors. Then she went round to the side of 
the church, and, depositing her bouquet care- 



286 THE BOUQUET 

fully on an old mossy gravestone, climbed up 
on the projecting sill of a window near the 
chancel. The window was of stained glass, 
of somewhat ancient make. The church was 
old, had indeed been built in colonial times, 
and the stained glass had been brought from 
England. The design of the window showed 
Jesus blessing little children. Time had dealt 
gently with the window, but just at the feet 
of the figure of Jesus a small triangular piece 
of glass had been broken out. To this aper- 
ture Sophy applied her eyes, and through it 
saw and heard what she could of the services 
within. 

Before the chancel, on trestles draped in 
black, stood the sombre casket in which lay 
all that was mortal of her dear teacher. The 
top of the casket was covered with flowers ; 
and lyiug stretched out underneath it she saw 
Miss Myrover's little white dog, Prince. He 
had followed the body to the church, and, 
slipping in unnoticed among the mourners, 
had taken his place, from which no one had 
the heart to remove him. 

The white-robed rector read the solemn 
service for the dead, and then delivered a 
brief address, in which he dwelt upon the 



THE BOUQUET 287 

uncertainty of life, and, to the believer, the 
certain blessedness of eternity. He spoke 
of Miss Myrover's kindly spirit, and, as an 
illustration of her love and self-sacrifice for 
others, referred to her labors as a teacher of 
the poor ignorant negroes who had been placed 
in their midst by an all-wise Providence, and 
whom it was their duty to guide and direct 
in the station in which God had put them. 
Then the organ pealed, a prayer was said, 
and the long cortege moved from the church 
to the cemetery, about half a mile away, 
where the body was to be interred. 

When the services were over, Sophy sprang 
down from her perch, and, taking her flowers, 
followed the procession. She did not walk 
with the rest, but at a proper and respectful 
distance from the last mourner. No one no- 
ticed the little black girl with the bunch of 
yellow flowers, or thought of her as inter- 
ested in the funeral. 

The cortege reached the cemetery and filed 
slowly through the gate ; but Sophy stood 
outside, looking at a small sign in white 
letters on a black background : — 

" Notice. This cemetery is for white peo- 
ple only. Others please keep out." 



288 THE BOUQUET 

Sophy, thanks to Miss Myrover's pains- 
taking instruction, could read this sign very 
distinctly. In fact, she had often read it 
before. For Sophy was a child who loved 
beauty, in a blind, groping sort of way, and 
had sometimes stood by the fence of the 
cemetery and looked through at the green 
mounds and shaded walks and bloomina" 
flowers within, and wished that she might 
walk among them. She knew, too, that the 
little sign on the gate, though so courteously 
worded, was no mere formality; for she had 
heard how a colored man, who had wandered 
into the cemetery on a hot night and fallen 
asleep on the flat top of a tomb, had been 
arrested as a vagrant and fined five dollars, 
which he had worked out on the streets, with 
a ball-and-chain attachment, at twenty-five 
cents a day. Since that time the cemetery 
gate had been locked at night. 

So Sophy stayed outside, and looked 
through the fence. Her poor bouquet had 
begun to droop by this time, and the yellow 
ribbon had lost some of its freshness. Sophy 
could see the rector standing by the grave, 
the mourners gathered round; she could 
faintly distinguish the solemn words with 




"FOR WHITE PEOPLE ONLY. OTHERS PLEASE KEEP OUT" 



THE BOUQUET 289 

which ashes were committed to ashes, and 
dust to dust. She heard the hollow thud of 
the earth falling on the coffin ; and she leaned 
against the iron fence, sobbing softly, until 
the grave was filled and rounded off, and the 
wreaths and other floral pieces were disposed 
upon it. When the mourners began to move 
toward the gate, Sophy walked slowly down 
the street, in a direction opposite to that 
taken by most of the people who came out. 

When they had all gone away, and the 
sexton had come out and locked the gate 
behind him, Sophy crept back. Her roses 
were faded now, and from some of them the 
petals had fallen. She stood there irresolute, 
loath to leave with her heart's desire unsatis- 
fied, when, as her eyes sought again the 
teacher's last resting-place, she saw lying be- 
side the new-made grave what looked like 
a small bundle of white wool. Sophy's eyes 
lighted up with a sudden glow. 

" Prince ! Here, Prince ! " she called. 

The little dog rose, and trotted down to 
the gate. Sophy pushed the poor bouquet 
between the iron bars. " Take that ter Miss 
Ma'y, Prince," she said, " that 's a good 
doggie." 



290 THE BOUQUET 

The dog wagged his tail intelligently, took 
the bouquet carefully in his mouth, carried it 
to his mistress's grave, and laid it among the 
other flowers. The bunch of roses was so 
small that from where she stood Sophy could 
see only a dash of yellow against the white 
background of the mass of flowers. 

When Prince had performed his mission 
he turned his eyes toward Sophy inquiringly, 
and when she gave him a nod of approval lay 
down and resumed his watch by the grave- 
side. Sophy looked at him a moment with a 
feeling very much like envy, and then turned 
and moved slowly away. 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 



Within a low clapboarded hut, with an 
open front, a forge was glowing. In front 
a blacksmith was shoeing a horse, a sleek, 
well-kept animal with the signs of good blood 
and breeding. A young mulatto stood by 
and handed the blacksmith such tools as he 
needed from time to time. A group of 
negroes were sitting around, some in the 
shadow of the shop, one in the full glare of 
the sunlight. A gentleman was seated in a 
buggy a few yards away, in the shade of 
a spreading elm. The horse had loosened a 
shoe, and Colonel Thornton, who was a lover 
of fine horseflesh, and careful of it, had 
stopped at Ben Davis's blacksmith shop, as 
soon as he discovered the loose shoe, to have 
it fastened on. 

" All right, Kunnel," the blacksmith called 
out. " Tom," he said, addressing the young 
man, " he'p me hitch up." 



292 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

Colonel Thornton alighted from the buggy, 
looked at the shoe, signified his approval of 
the job, and stood looking on while the black- 
smith and his assistant harnessed the horse to 
the buggy. 

" Dat 's a mighty fine whip yer got dere, 
Kunnel," said Ben, while the young man was 
tightening the straps of the harness on the 
opposite side of the horse. " I wush I had 
one like it. Where kin yer git dem whips ? ' : 

" My brother brought me this from New 
York," said the Colonel. " You can't buy 
them down here." 

The whip in question was a handsome one. 
The handle was wrapped with interlacing 
threads of variegated colors, forming an elab- 
orate pattern, the lash being dark green. An 
octagonal ornament of glass was set in the 
end of the handle. " It cert'n'y is fine," said 
Ben ; " I wish I had one like it." He looked 
at the whip longingly as Colonel Thornton 
drove away. 

" 'Pears ter me Ben gittin' mighty blooded," 
said one of the bystanders, " drivin' a hoss an' 
buggy, an' wantin' a whip like Colonel Thorn- 
ton's." 

" What 's de reason I can't hab a hoss an' 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 293 

buggy an' a whip like Kunnel Tho'nton's, ef 
I pay fer 'em?" asked Ben. "We colored 
folks never had no chance ter git nothin' 
befo' de wah, but ef eve'y nigger in dis town 
had a tuck keer er his money sence de wah, 
like I has, an' bought as much Ian' as I has, de 
niggers might 'a' got half de Ian' by dis time," 
he went on, giving a finishing blow to a horse- 
shoe, and throwing it on the ground to cool. 

Carried away by his own eloquence, he did 
not notice the approach of two white men 
who came up the street from behind him. 

" An' ef you niggers," he continued, raking 
the coals together over a fresh bar of iron, 
" would stop wastin' yo' money on 'scursions 
to put money in w'ite folks' pockets, an' stop 
buildin' fine chu'ches, an' buil' houses fer 
yo'se'ves, you 'd git along much faster." 

" You 're talkin' sense, Ben," said one of 
the white men. " Yo'r people will never be 
respected till they 've got property." 

The conversation took another turn. The 
white men transacted their business and went 
away. The whistle of a neighboring steam 
sawmill blew a raucous blast for the hour of 
noon, and the loafers shuffled away in differ- 
ent directions. 



294 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

" You kin go ter dinner, Tom/' said the 
blacksmith. " An' stop at de gate w'en yer 
go by my house, and tell Nancy I '11 be dere 
in 'bout twenty minutes. I got ter finish dis 
yer plough p'int fus'." 

The young man walked away. One would 
have supposed, from the rapidity with which 
he walked, that he was very hungry. A 
quarter of an hour later the blacksmith 
dropped his hammer, pulled off his leather 
apron, shut the front door of the shop, and 
went home to dinner. He came into the 
house out of the fervent heat, and, throwing 
off his straw hat, wiped his brow vigorously 
with a red cotton handkerchief. 

" Dem collards smells good," he said, 
sniffing the odor that came in through the 
kitchen door, as his good-looking yellow wife 
opened it to enter the room where he was. 
" I've got a monst'us good appetite ter-day. 
I feels good, too. I paid Majah Eansom de 
intrus' on de mortgage dis mawnin' an' a 
hund'ed dollahs besides, an' I spec's ter hab 
de balance ready by de fust of nex' Jiniwary ; 
an' den we won't owe nobody a cent. I tell 
yer dere ain' nothin' like propputy ter make 
a pusson feel like a man. But w'at 's de 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 295 

matter wid yer, Nancy ? Is sump'n' skeered 
yer? 

The woman did seem excited and ill at 
ease. There was a heaving of the full bust, 
a quickened breathing, that betokened sup- 
pressed excitement. 

"I — I — jes' seen a rattlesnake out in de 
gyahden," she stammered. 

The blacksmith ran to the door. " Which 
way ? Whar wuz he ? " he cried. 

He heard a rustling in the bushes at one 
side of the garden, and the sound of a break- 
ing twig, and, seizing a hoe which stood by 
the door, he sprang toward the point from 
which the sound came. 

" No, no," said the woman hurriedly, " it 
wuz over here," and she directed her husband's 
attention to the other side of the garden. 

The blacksmith, with the uplifted hoe, its 
sharp blade gleaming in the sunlight, peered 
cautiously among the collards and tomato 
plants, listening all the while for the ominous 
rattle, but found nothing. 

" I reckon he 's got away," he said, as he 
set the hoe up again by the door. " Whar 's 
de chillen ? ' he asked with some anxiety. 
" Is dey playin' in de woods ? " 



296 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

" No," answered his wife, " dey 've gone 
ter de spring." 

The spring was on the opposite side of the 
garden from that on which the snake was 
said to have been seen, so the blacksmith sat 
down and fanned himself with a palm-leaf 
fan until the dinner was served. 

" Yer ain't quite on time ter-day, Nancy," 
he said, glancing up at the clock on the 
mantel, after the edge of his appetite had 
been taken off. " Got ter make time ef yer 
wanter make money. Did n't Tom tell yer 
I 'd be heah in twenty minutes ? ' 

" No," she said ; " I seen him goin' pas' ; 
he did n' say nothin'." 

" I dunno w'at 's de matter wid dat boy," 
mused the blacksmith over his apple dump- 
ling. " He 's gittin' mighty keerless heah 
lately ; mus' hab sump'n' on 'is min', — some 
gal, I reckon." 

The children had come in while he was 
speaking, — a slender, shapely boy, yellow like 
his mother, a girl several years younger, dark 
like her father : both bright-looking children 
and neatly dressed. 

" I seen cousin Tom down by de spring," 
said the little girl, as she lifted off the pail 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 297 

of water that had been balanced on her head. 
" He come out er de woods jest ez we wuz 
fillin' our buckets." 

" Yas," insisted the blacksmith, " he 's got 
some gal on his min'." 

II 

The case of the State of North Carolina vs. 
Ben Davis was called. The accused was led 
into court, and took his seat in the prisoner's 
dock. 

" Prisoner at the bar, stand up." 

The prisoner, pale and anxious, stood up. 
The clerk read the indictment, in which it was 
charged that the defendant by force and arms 
had entered the barn of one G. W. Thornton, 
and feloniously taken therefrom one whip, of 
the value of fifteen dollars. 

" Are you guilty or not guilty ? " asked the 
judge. 

" Not guilty, yo' Honah ; not guilty, Jedge. 
I never tuck de whip." 

The State's attorney opened the case. He 
was young and zealous. Recently elected to 
the office, this was his first batch of cases, and 
he was anxious to make as good a record as 



298 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

possible. He had no doubt of the prisoner's 
guilt. There had been a great deal of petty 
thieving in the county, and several gentlemen 
had suggested to him the necessity for greater 
severity in punishing it. The jury were all 
white men. The prosecuting attorney stated 
the case. 

" We expect to show, gentlemen of the 
jury, the facts set out in the indictment, — ■ 
not altogether by direct proof, but by a chain 
of circumstantial evidence which is stronger 
even than the testimony of eyewitnesses. Men 
might lie, but circumstances cannot. We ex- 
pect to show that the defendant is a man of 
dangerous character, a surly, impudent fellow ; 
a man whose views of property are prejudicial 
to the welfare of society, and who has been 
heard to assert that half the property which 
is owned in this county has been stolen, and 
that, if justice were done, the white people 
ought to divide up the land with the negroes; 
in other words, a negro nihilist, a communist, 
a secret devotee of Tom Paine and Voltaire, a 
pupil of the anarchist propaganda, which, if 
not checked by the stern hand of the law, will 
fasten its insidious fangs on our social system, 
and drag it down to ruin." 



THE WEB OF CIECUMSTANCE 299 

" We object, may it please your Honor," 
said the defendant's attorney. " The pro- 
secutor should defer his argument until the 
testimony is in." 

" Confine yourself to the facts, Major," 
said the court mildly. 

The prisoner sat with half-open mouth, 
overwhelmed by this flood of eloquence. He 
had never heard of Tom Paine or Voltaire. 
He had no conception of what a nihilist or 
an anarchist might be, and could not have 
told the difference between a propaganda and 
a potato. 

" We expect to show, may it please the 
court, that the prisoner had been employed 
by Colonel Thornton to shoe a horse ; that 
the horse was taken to the prisoner's black- 
smith shop by a servant of Colonel Thorn- 
ton's ; that, this servant expressing a desire 
to go somewhere on an errand before the 
horse had been shod, the prisoner volun- 
teered to return the horse to Colonel Thorn- 
ton's stable ; that he did so, and the following 
morning the whip in question was missing ; 
that, from circumstances, suspicion naturally 
fell upon the prisoner, and a search was made 
of his shop, where the whip was found se- 



300 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

creted ; that the prisoner denied that the 
whip was there, but when confronted with 
the evidence of his crime, showed by his con- 
fusion that he was guilty beyond a perad- 
venture." 

The prisoner looked more anxious ; so 
much eloquence could not but be effective 
with the jury. 

The attorney for the defendant Answered 
briefly, denying the defendant's guilt, dwell- 
ing upon his previous good character for 
honesty, and begging the jury not to pre- 
judge the case, but to remember that the law 
is merciful, and that the benefit of the doubt 
should be given to the prisoner. 

The prisoner glanced nervously at the jury. 
There was nothing in their faces to indicate 
the effect upon them of the opening state- 
ments. It seemed to the disinterested listeners 
as if the defendant's attorney had little con- 
fidence in his client's cause. 

Colonel Thornton took the stand and testi- 
fied to his ownership of the whip, the place 
where it was kept, its value, and the fact that 
it had disappeared. The whip was produced 
in court and identified by the witness. He 
also testified to the conversation at the black- 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 301 

smith shop in the course of which the pris- 
oner had expressed a desire to possess a sim- 
ilar whip. The cross-examination was brief, 
and no attempt was made to shake the Colo- 
nel's testimony. 

The next witness was the constable who had 
gone with a warrant to search Ben's shop. 
He testified to the circumstances under which 
the whip was found. 

" He wuz brazen as a mule at fust, an' 
wanted ter git mad about it. But when we 
begun ter turn over that pile er truck in the 
cawner, he kinder begun ter trimble ; when 
the whip-handle stuck out, his eyes commenced 
ter grow big, an' when we hauled the whip 
out he turned pale ez ashes, an' begun to 
swear he did n' take the whip an' did n' know 
how it got thar." 

" You may cross-examine," said the prose- 
cuting attorney triumphantly. 

The prisoner felt the weight of the testi- 
mony, and glanced furtively at the jury, and 
then appealingly at his lawyer. 

" You say that Ben denied that he had 
stolen the whip," said the prisoner's attorney, 
on cross-examination. " Did it not occur to 
you that what you took for brazen impudence 



302 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

might have been but the evidence of con- 
scious innocence ? " 

The witness grinned incredulously, reveal- 
ing thereby a few blackened fragments of 
teeth. 

" I 've tuck up more 'n a hundred niggers 
fer stealing Kurnel, an' I never seed one yit 
that did n' 'ny it ter the las'." 

" Answer my question. Might not the 
witness's indignation have been a manifesta- 
tion of conscious innocence ? Yes or no ? ' 

u Yes, it mought, an' the moon mought 
fall — but it don't." 

Further cross-examination did not weaken 
the witness's testimony, which was very dam- 
aging, and every one in the court room felt 
instinctively that a strong defense would be 
required to break down the State's case. 

" The State rests," said the prosecuting 
attorney, with a ring in his voice which spoke 
of certain victory. 

There was a temporary lull in the proceed- 
ings, during which a bailiff passed a pitcher 
of water and a glass along the line of jury- 
men. The defense was then begun. 

The law in its wisdom did not permit the 
defendant to testify in his own behalf. There 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 303 

were no witnesses to the facts, but several 
were called to testify to Ben's good character. 
The colored witnesses made him out pos- 
sessed of all the virtues. One or two white 
men testified that they had never known any- 
thing against his reputation for honesty. 

The defendant rested his case, and the 
State called its witnesses in rebuttal. They 
were entirely on the point of character. One 
testified that he had heard the prisoner say 
that, if the negroes had their rights, they 
would own at least half the property. An- 
other testified that he had heard the defend- 
ant say that the negroes spent too much 
money on churches, and that they cared a 
good deal more for God than God had ever 
seemed to care for them. 

Ben Davis listened to this testimony with 
half-open mouth and staring eyes. Now and 
then he would lean forward and speak per- 
haps a word, when his attorney would shake 
a warning finger at him, and he would fall 
back helplessly, as if abandoning himself to 
fate ; but for a moment only, when he would 
resume his puzzled look. 

The arguments followed. The prosecuting 
attorney briefly summed up the evidence, and 



304 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

characterized it as almost a mathematical 
proof of the prisoner's guilt. He reserved 
his eloquence for the closing argument. 

The defendant's attorney had a headache, 
and secretly believed his client guilty. His 
address sounded more like an appeal for 
mercy than a demand for justice. Then the 
State's attorney delivered the maiden argument 
of his office, the speech that made his repu- 
tation as an orator, and opened up to him a 
successful political career. 

The judge's charge to the jury was a plain, 
simple statement of the law as applied to 
circumstantial evidence, and the mere state- 
ment of the law foreshadowed the verdict. 

The eyes of the prisoner were glued to the 
jury-box, and he looked more and more like 
a hunted animal. In the rear of the crowd 
of blacks who filled the back part of the room, 
partly concealed by the projecting angle of 
the fireplace, stood Tom, the blacksmith's 
assistant. If the face is the mirror of the 
soul, then this man's soul, taken off its guard 
in this moment of excitement, was full of lust 
and envy and all evil passions. 

The jury filed out of their box, and into 
the jury room behind the judge's stand. 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 305 

There was a moment of relaxation in the 
court room. The lawyers fell into conversa- 
tion across the table. The judge beckoned to 
Colonel Thornton, who stepped forward, and 
they conversed together a few moments. The 
prisoner was all eyes and ears in this moment 
of waiting, and from an involuntary gesture 
on the part of the judge he divined that they 
were speaking of him. It is a pity he could 
not hear what was said. 

"How do you feel about the case, Colonel?" 
asked the judge. 

"Let him off easy," replied Colonel Thorn- 
ton. " He 's the best blacksmith in the 
county." 

The business of the court seemed to have 
halted by tacit consent, in anticipation of a 
quick verdict. The suspense did not last 
long. Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed 
when there was a rap on the door, the officer 
opened it, and the jury came out. 

The prisoner, his soul in his eyes, sought 
their faces, but met no reassuring glance ; 
they were all looking away from him. 

" Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed 
upon a verdict ? " 

" We have," responded the foreman. The 



306 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

clerk of the court stepped forward and took 
the fateful slip from the foreman's hand. 

The clerk read the verdict : " We, the 
jury impaneled and sworn to try the issues 
in this cause, do find the prisoner guilty as 
charged in the indictment." 

There was a moment of breathless silence. 
Then a wild burst of grief from the prisoner's 
wife, to which his two children, not under- 
standing it all, but vaguely conscious of some 
calamity, added their voices in two long, dis- 
cordant wails, which would have been ludi- 
crous had they not been heart-rending. 

The face of the young man in the back of 
the room expressed relief and badly concealed 
satisfaction. The prisoner fell back upon the 
seat from which he had half risen in his anxi- 
ety, and his dark face assumed an ashen 
hue. What he thought could only be sur- 
mised. Perhaps, knowing his innocence, he 
had not believed conviction possible ; perhaps, 
conscious of guilt, he dreaded the punishment, 
the extent of which was optional with the 
judge, within very wide limits. Only one other 
person present knew whether or not he was 
guilty, and that other had slunk furtively 
from the court room. 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 307 

Some of the spectators wondered why there 
should be so much ado about convicting a 
negro of stealing a buggy-whip. They had 
forgotten their own interest of the moment 
before. They did not realize out of what 
trifles grow the tragedies of life. 

It was four o'clock in the afternoon, the 
hour for adjournment, when the verdict was 
returned. The judge nodded to the bailiff. 

" Oyez, oyez! this court is now adjourned 
until ten o'clock to-morrow morning," cried 
the bailiff in a singsong voice. The judge 
left the bench, the jury filed out of the box, 
and a buzz of conversation filled the court 
room. 

" Brace up, Ben, brace up, my boy," said 
the defendant's lawyer, half apologetically. 
" I did what I could for you, but you can 
never tell what a jury will do. You won't be 
sentenced till to-morrow morning. In the 
meantime I '11 speak to the judge and try to 
get him to be easy with you. He may let 
you off with a light fine." 

The negro pulled himself together, and by 
an effort listened. 

" Thanky, Majah," was all he said. He 
seemed to be thinking of something far away. 



308 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

He barely spoke to his wife when she fran- 
tically threw herself on him, and clung to his 
neck, as he passed through the side room on 
his way to jail. He kissed his children me- 
chanically, and did not reply to the soothing 
remarks made by the jailer. 



Ill 

There was a good deal of excitement in 
town the next morning-. Two white men 
stood by the post office talking. 

" Did yer hear the news ? " 

"No, what wuzit?" 

" Ben Davis tried ter break jail las' night." 

" You don't say so ! What a fool ! He 
ain't be'n sentenced yit." 

" Well, now," said the other, " I Ve knowed 
Ben a long time, an' he wuz a right good 
nigger. I kinder found it hard ter b'lieve he 
did steal that whip. But what 's a man's feel- 
in's ag'in' the proof ? " 

They spoke on awhile, using the past tense 
as if they were speaking of a dead man. 

" Ef I know Jedge Hart, Ben '11 wish he 
had slep' las' night, 'stidder tryin' ter break 
out'n jail." 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 309 

At ten o'clock the prisoner was brought into 
court. He walked with shambling gait, bent 
at the shoulders, hopelessly, with downcast 
eyes, and took his seat with several other 
prisoners who had been brought in for sen- 
tence. His wife, accompanied by the children, 
waited behind him, and a number of his 
friends were gathered in the court room. 

The first prisoner sentenced was a young 
white man, convicted several days before of 
manslaughter. The deed was done in the 
heat of passion, under circumstances of great 
provocation, during a quarrel about a woman. 
The prisoner was admonished of the sanctity 
of human life, and sentenced to one year in 
the penitentiary. 

The next case was that of a young clerk, 
eighteen or nineteen years of age, who had 
committed a forgery in order to procure the 
means to buy lottery tickets. He was well 
connected, and the case would not have been 
prosecuted if the judge had not refused to 
allow it to be nolled, and, once brought 
to trial, a conviction could not have been 
avoided. 

" You are a young man," said the judge 
gravely, yet not unkindly, " and your life is 



310 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

yet before you. I regret that you should 
have been led into evil courses by the lust for 
speculation, so dangerous in its tendencies, so 
fruitful of crime and misery. I am led to be- 
lieve that you are sincerely penitent, and that, 
after such punishment as the law cannot re- 
mit without bringing itself into contempt, 
you will see the error of your ways and follow 
the strict path of rectitude. Your fault has 
entailed distress not only upon yourself, but 
upon your relatives, people of good name and 
good family, who suffer as keenly from your 
disgrace as you yourself. Partly out of con- 
sideration for their feelings, and partly be- 
cause I feel that, under the circumstances, 
the law will be satisfied by the penalty I shall 
inflict, I sentence you to imprisonment in 
the county jail for six months, and a fine 
of one hundred dollars and the costs of this 
action." 

" The jedge talks well, don't he ? ' whis- 
pered one spectator to another. 

" Yes, and kinder likes ter hear hisse'f 
talk," answered the other. 

" Ben Davis, stand up," ordered the judge. 

He might have said " Ben Davis, wake up," 
for the jailer had to touch the prisoner on the 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 311 

shoulder to rouse him from his stupor. He 
stood up, and something of the hunted look 
came again into his eyes, which shifted 
under the stern glance of the judge. 

" Ben Davis, you have been convicted of 
larceny, after a fair trial before twelve good 
men of this county. Under the testimony, 
there can be no doubt of your guilt. The 
case is an aggravated one. You are not an 
ignorant, shiftless fellow, but a man of more 
than ordinary intelligence among your people, 
and one who ought to know better. You 
have not even the poor excuse of having 
stolen to satisfy hunger or a physical appetite. 
Your conduct is whollv without excuse, and I 
can only regard your crime as the result of a 
tendency to offenses of this nature, a tendency 
which is only too common among your people ; 
a tendency which is a menace to civilization, 
a menace to society itself, for society rests 
upon the sacred right of property. Your 
opinions, too, have been given a wrong turn ; 
you have been heard to utter sentiments 
which, if disseminated among an ignorant 
people, would breed discontent, and give rise 
to strained relations between them and their 
best friends, their old masters, who under- 



312 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

stand their real nature and their real needs, 
and to whose justice and enlightened guid- 
ance they can safely trust. Have you any- 
thing to say why sentence should not be 
passed upon you? " 

" Nothin', suh, cep'n dat I did n' take de 
whip." 

" The law, largely, I think, in view of the 
peculiar circumstances of your unfortunate 
race, has vested a large discretion in courts 
as to the extent of the punishment for of- 
fenses of this kind. Taking your case as a 
whole, I am convinced that it is one which, 
for the sake of the example, deserves a severe 
punishment. Nevertheless, I do not feel dis- 
posed to give you the full extent of the law, 
which would be twenty years in the peniten- 
tiary, 1 but, considering the fact that you have 
a family, and have heretofore borne a good 
reputation in the community, I will impose 
upon you the light sentence of imprisonment 
for five years in the penitentiary at hard 
labor. And I hope that this will be a warn- 
ing to you and others who may be similarly 

1 There are no degrees of larceny in North Carolina, and 
the penalty for any offense lies in the discretion of the judge, 
to the limit of twenty years. 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 313 

disposed, and that after your sentence has 
expired you may lead the life of a law-abiding 
citizen." 

" O Ben ! my husband ! God ! " 
moaned the poor wife, and tried to press for- 
ward to her husband's side. 

" Keep back, Nancy, keep back," said the 
jailer. " You can see him in jail." 

Several people were looking at Ben's face. 
There was one flash of despair, and then 
nothing but a stony blank, behind which he 
masked his real feelings, whatever they were. 

Human character is a compound of ten- 
dencies inherited and habits acquired. In the 
anxiety, the fear of disgrace, spoke the nine- 
teenth century civilization with which Ben 
Davis had been more or less closely in touch 
during twenty years of slavery and fifteen 
years of freedom. In the stolidity with which 
he received this sentence for a crime which he 
had not committed, spoke who knows what 
trait of inherited savagery ? For stoicism is 
a savage virtue. 

IV 

One morning in June, five years later, a 
black man limped slowly along the old Lum- 



314 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

berton plank road ; a tall man, whose bowed 
shoulders made him seem shorter than he was, 
and a face from which it was difficult to guess 
his years, for in it the wrinkles and flabbiness 
of age were found side by side with firm white 
teeth, and eyes not sunken, — eyes bloodshot, 
and burning with something, either fever or 
passion. Though he limped painfully with 
one foot, the other hit the ground impa- 
tiently, like the good horse in a poorly 
matched team. As he walked along, he was 
talking to himself : — 

" I wonder what dey '11 do w'en I git back ? 
I wonder how Nancy 's s'ported the fambly 
all dese years ? Tuck in washin', I s'ppose, — 
she was a monst'us good washer an' ironer. 
I wonder ef de chillun '11 be too proud ter 
reco'nize deir daddy come back f'um de pen- 
etenchy ? I 'spec' Billy must be a big boy 
by dis time. He won' b'lieve his daddy ever 
stole anything. I 'm gwine ter slip roun' an' 
s'prise 'em." 

Five minutes later a face peered cautiously 
into the window of what had once been Ben 
Davis's cabin, — at first an eager face, its 
coarseness lit up with the fire of hope ; a mo- 
ment later a puzzled face ; then an anxious, 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 315 

fearful face as the man stepped away from 
the window and rapped at the door. 

" Is Mis' Davis home ? " he asked of the 
woman who opened the door. 

" Mis' Davis don' live here. You er mis- 
took in de house." 

" Whose house is dis? " 

" It b'longs ter my husban', Mr. Smith, — 
Primus Smith." 

" 'Scuse me, but I knowed de house some 
years ago w'en I wuz here oncet on a visit, 
an' it b'longed ter a man name' Ben Davis." 

" Ben Davis — Ben Davis ? — oh yes, I 
'member now. Dat wuz de gen'man w'at 
wuz sent ter de penitenchy fer sump'n er 
nuther, — sheep-stealin', I b'lieve. Primus," 
she called, " w'at wuz Ben Davis, w'at useter 
own dis yer house, sent ter de penitenchy 
fer?" 

" Hoss-stealin'," came back the reply in 
sleepy accents, from the man seated by the 
fireplace. 

The traveler went on to the next house. 
A neat-looking yellow woman came to the 
door when he rattled the gate, and stood 
looking suspiciously at him. 

" Wat you want ? " she asked. 



4 

316 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

" Please, ma'am, will you tell me whether 
a man name' Ben Davis useter live in dis 
neighborhood ? " 

" Useter live in de nex' house ; wuz sent 
ter de penitenchy fer killin' a man." 

" Kin yer tell me w'at went wid Mis' 
Davis?" 

" Umph ! I'sa 'spectable 'oman, I is, en 
don' mix wid dem kind er people. She wuz 'n' 
no better 'n her husban'. She tuk up wid a 
man dat useter wuk fer Ben, an' dey 're livin' 
down by de ole wagon-ya'd, where no 'spect- 
able 'oman ever puts her foot." 

" An' de chillen ? " 

" De gal 's dead. Wuz 'n' no better 'n she 
oughter be'n. She fell in de crick an' got 
drown' ; some folks say she wuz 'n' sober 
w'en it happen'. De boy tuck atter his 
pappy. He wuz 'rested las' week fer shootin' 
a w'ite man, an' wuz lynch' de same night. 
Dey wa'n't none of 'em no 'count after deir 
pappy went ter de penitenchy." 

" What went wid de proputty ? " 

" Hit wuz sol' fer de mortgage, er de taxes, 
er de lawyer, er sump'n, — I don' know w'at. 
A w'ite man got it." 

The man with the bundle went on until he 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 317 

came to a creek that crossed the road. He 
descended the sloping bank, and, sitting on a 
stone in the shade of a water-oak, took off his 
coarse brogans, unwound the rags that served 
him in lieu of stockings, and laved in the 
cool water the feet that were chafed with 
many a weary mile of travel. 

After five years of unrequited toil, and 
unspeakable hardship in convict camps, — 
five years of slaving by the side of human 
brutes, and of nightly herding with them in 
vermin-haunted huts, — Ben Davis had be- 
come like them. For a while he had received 
occasional letters from home, but in the shift- 
ing life of the convict camp they had long 
since ceased to reach him, if indeed they had 
been written. For a year or two, the con- 
sciousness of his innocence had helped to 
make him resist the debasing influences that 
surrounded him. The hope of shortening his 
sentence by good behavior, too, had worked 
a similar end. But the transfer from one 
contractor to another, each interested in keep- 
ing as long as possible a good worker, had 
speedily dissipated any such hope. When 
hope took flight, its place was not long va- 
cant. Despair followed, and black hatred of 



318 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

all mankind, hatred especially of the man to 
whom he attributed all his misfortunes. One 
who is suffering unjustly is not apt to indulge 
in fine abstractions, nor to balance probabili- 
ties. By long brooding over his wrongs, his 
mind became, if not unsettled, at least warped, 
and he imagined that Colonel Thornton had 
deliberately set a trap into which he had 
fallen. The Colonel, he convinced himself, 
had disapproved of his prosperity, and had 
schemed to destroy it. He reasoned him- 
self into the belief that he represented in his 
person the accumulated wrongs of a whole 
race, and Colonel Thornton the race who had 
oppressed them. A burning desire for re- 
venge sprang up in him, and he nursed it 
until his sentence expired and he was set at 
liberty. What he had learned since reach- 
ing home had changed his desire into a 
deadly purpose. 

When he had again bandaged his feet and 
slipped them into his shoes, he looked around 
him, and selected a stout sapling from among 
the undergrowth that covered the bank of 
the stream. Taking from his pocket a huge 
clasp-knife, he cut off the length of an ordi- 
nary walking stick and trimmed it. The result 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 319 

was an ugly-looking bludgeon, a dangerous 
weapon when in the grasp of a strong man. 

With the stick in his hand, he went on 
down the road until he approached a large 
white house standing some distance back from 
the street. The grounds were filled with a 
profusion of shrubbery. The negro entered 
the gate and secreted himself in the bushes, 
at a point where he could hear any one that 
might approach. 

It was near midday, and he had not eaten. 
He had walked all night, and had not slept. 
The hope of meeting his loved ones had been 
meat and drink and rest for him. But as he 
sat waiting, outraged nature asserted itself, 
and he fell asleep, with his head on the rising 
root of a tree, and his face upturned. 

And as he slept, he dreamed of his child- 
hood ; of an old black mammy taking care of 
him in the daytime, and of a younger face, 
with soft eyes, which bent over him some- 
times at night, and a pair of arms which 
clasped him closely. He dreamed of his past, 
— of his young wife, of his bright children. 
Somehow his dreams all ran to pleasant 
themes for a while. 

Then they changed again. He dreamed 



320 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

that he was in the convict camp, and, by an 
easy transition, that he was in hell, consumed 
with hunger, burning with thirst. Suddenly 
the grinning devil who stood over him with 
a barbed whip faded away, and a little white 
angel came and handed him a drink of water. 
As he raised it to his lips the glass slipped, 
and he struggled back to consciousness. 

" Poo' man ! Poo' man sick, an' sleepy. 
Dolly b'ing f'owers to cover poo' man up. 
Poo' man mus' be hungry. Wen Dolly get 
him covered up, she go b'ing poo' man some 
cake." 

A sweet little child, as beautiful as a cherub 
escaped from Paradise, was standing over him. 
At first he scarcely comprehended the words 
the baby babbled out. But as they became 
clear to him, a novel feeling crept slowly over 
his heart. It had been so long since he had 
heard anything but curses and stern words of 
command, or the ribald songs of obscene mer- 
riment, that the clear tones of this voice 
from heaven cooled his calloused heart as the 
water of the brook had soothed his blistered 
feet. It was so strange, so unwonted a thing, 
that he lay there with half-closed eyes while 
the child brought leaves and flowers and laid 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 321 

them on his face and on his breast, and ar- 
ranged them with little caressing taps. 

She moved away, and plucked a flower. 
And then she spied another farther on, and 
then another, and, as she gathered them, kept 
increasing the distance between herself and 
the man lying there, until she was several 
rods away. 

Ben Davis watched her through eyes over 
which had come an unfamiliar softness. 
Under the lingering spell of his dream, her 
golden hair, which fell in rippling curls, 
seemed like a halo of purity and innocence 
and peace, irradiating the atmosphere around 
her. It is true the thought occurred to Ben, 
vaguely, that through harm to her he might 
inflict the greatest punishment upon her 
father ; but the idea came like a dark shape 
that faded away and vanished into nothing- 
ness as soon as it came within the nimbus 
that surrounded the child's person. 

The child was moving on to pluck still 
another flower, when there came a sound of 
hoof-beats, and Ben was aware that a horse- 
man, visible through the shrubbery, was com- 
ing along the curved path that led from the 
gate to the house. It must be the man he 



322 THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 

was waiting for, and now was the time to 
wreak his vengeance. He sprang to his feet, 
grasped his club, and stood for a moment 
irresolute. But either the instinct of the 
convict, beaten, driven, and debased, or the 
influence of the child, which was still strong 
upon him, impelled him, after the first momen- 
tary pause, to flee as though seeking safety. 

His flight led him toward the little girl, 
whom he must pass in order to make his es- 
cape, and as Colonel Thornton turned the 
corner of the path he saw a desperate-looking 
negro, clad in filthy rags, and carrying in his 
hand a murderous bludgeon, running toward 
the child, who, startled by the sound of foot- 
steps, had turned and was looking toward the 
approaching man with wondering eyes. A 
sickening fear came over the father's heart, 
and drawing the ever-ready revolver, which 
according to the Southern custom he carried 
always upon his person, he fired with un- 
erring aim. Ben Davis ran a few yards 
farther, faltered, threw out his hands, and 
fell dead at the child's feet. 

Some time, we are told, when the cycle of 
years has rolled around, there is to be an- 



THE WEB OF CIRCUMSTANCE 323 

other golden age, when all men will dwell to- 
gether in love and harmony, and when peace 
and righteousness shall prevail for a thousand 
years. God speed the day, and let not the 
shining thread of hope become so enmeshed 
in the web of circumstance that we lose sight 
of it ; but give us here and there, and now 
and then, some little foretaste of this golden 
age, that we may the more patiently and hope- 
fully await its coming ! 



ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED 
BY H. O. HOUGHTON AND CO. 

(Cfce fttoetsibe $re#£ 

CAMBRIDGE, MASS., U. S. A.